Coronavirus is becoming a reality that we as a society are needing to prepare for and cope with. Every newspaper has a headline warning of the danger. The news is spending the majority of the airtime covering it. We talk about it with partners and friends. It is easy to forget that our children are also processing this medical crisis.
Parents and carers need to take the lead by managing this conversation and the information our children are trying to sort through. Here are some important criteria to remember when talking to our children about Coronavirus.
What Do They Know Already?
Children’s minds are like sponges. They are absorbing information from the media, the school and their friends and trying to process reality. Assumptions will be made on their part based on half- truths and reality. My own child came home very upset because he knew that he would never be able to fly on an airplane again due to coronavirus. Start the conversation by asking them what they think they know already. This way, you know where to fill in the gaps.
Keep Calm and Be Appropriately Honest
It can be very easy for children to jump to catastrophizing. For adults, we can often go there as well when nothing seems confirmed. Your children are looking to you as the example for how to react. This is a time when we need to hold our own emotions, to be there as a conduit for emotional regulation for our children. When children ask about the illness and whether people die, it is important that we are honest. However, for the younger ones, less can be more. Let them know that most people who get the virus feel ill and then recover. Let them air their fears and use your emotion coaching skills to share information at an age appropriate level.
Implement Prevention Measures Together
Health authorities are giving information regarding hygiene and hand washing. Take some time to practice this together. Review hand washing technique. Wash hands together whilst singing before mealtimes. Remind them to sneeze and cough into a tissue and make sure the tissue makes it into the bin. Teach the “cough like a vampire” technique by making sure they cough into their elbow (it looks like a vampire holding up his cape over his face). Your children learn how important this is by watching how often you implement these techniques yourself.
Manage Media at Home
I start every day with the news. However, this has started to build anxiety in my daughter. Just this morning, she panicked over whether or not we have enough toilet paper to get through the next month. For now, starting her day with the news is not providing her with the best start to the day. For now, I’m reading the news on my phone and putting on an audiobook whist we get ready. This is not a permanent intervention. However, until her anxiety is managed, I am reducing the stimuli which allows her to focus on learning and being a kid. It does not mean that we avoid the subject. It means that I am controlling the amount of exposure from outside sources until we get back to feeling safe and confident.
Keep Communication Open
As with most areas of parenting, this is not a one- time conversation. This is especially true in the case of coronavirus as the story is unfolding before us and guidelines are changing. Let your children know that you are keeping up with what is going on and that you will update them with the practicalities. Also, let them know that if they learn new information, you would like them to share it with you. This way, you can add truth to rumor. You may also learn something new. Anxieties will change with the news. Have a check in every few days to see how things are sitting with them. This way, you can catch a worry before it turns into an anxiety.
Educating Matters are offering a webinar for corporates to help parents prepare for what may come as the impact of the Corona Virus grows. Here is the outline of our webinar.
Get in touch for more information, should your company want to offer this valuable information to parents and carers.