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It’s a strange time for all of us with coronavirus news and information everywhere, but especially for children. At times like this, they will be looking to you for reassurance about what’s going on, how they can help, and what they should be feeling about the pandemic.
Talking calmly and confidently about the outbreak, and being aware of what information they have and how they feel, is your chance to pave the way for better communication, share an even closer friendship, and teach them skills they will always be able to rely on.
No one knows your child better than you, so while the conversation needs to be age-appropriate, it’s comforting for children to be able to ask questions about what’s going on in the world, especially when things are so worrying.
You don’t need to have all the answers, but let them know you’ll try to find out. It’s more important for them to recognise that you’re comfortable talking about things, rather than supplying all the answers.
Relaxed conversations about what’s happening and why, can help children feel less anxious. Letting them know the pandemic is something they can talk about makes it less scary, and encourages open communication as a family.
Too much information can be overwhelming, and too little may weigh on their mind, so try to answer their questions simply and calmly, while keeping the conversation positive. Bitesize information is easier for them to understand and helps ease any anxiety with short, clear facts.
There’s no need to turn off the TV or close a web page around children, this can play on their minds and be frightening, but do be careful about what they might be hearing you discuss, as we all know little ears can be on high-alert even though they might seem engrossed in school work or playing.
Make sure your child knows that it’s perfectly normal to worry, and a natural response for all of us. Talking about their concerns and questions, rather than dismissing their feelings or telling them not to worry, will keep children feeling informed, which will make them less concerned about things they don’t understand.
Talk to them in simple, fact-based answers, and they will trust you as the best source of information. This reassures and calms any fears during a time when open discussion and support from you will teach them how to manage anxiety, and keep you aware of what’s on their mind.
As you talk to your child about what’s going on, find out how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking about. Let them know it is okay to feel scared or unsure, and reassure them that their thoughts and feelings will pass, and you’re doing everything you can as a family to keep yourselves and everyone else safe.
If your child is concerned about you or other relatives and friends catching the virus, let them know the kind of support you have as adults, and remind them of all the people who are feeling much better after having symptoms. If children are worried about catching the virus, reassure them they’re merely likely to catch a cold, and you’re there to look after them.
You can deal with any worries very simply, by reminding children of the important steps they’ve been taking to stay healthy. This is a great way to teach children that by doing small things, and following instructions, our actions can add-up to big, important changes. This is an early and vital example of taking social responsibility, and also empowers them in their actions, which is reassuring in itself.
Hearing about the importance of washing their hands properly, eating well, getting enough rest, and why they’re doing it, not only reassures children, but provides practical steps to help them feel more in control. This makes them far less focused on things they can’t control, which might be causing them to worry. Make washing their hands a fun experience and keep them motivated by singing a song, and after spending their allotted time outside every day, praise them for following the rules and helping to keep everyone safe and healthy.
Kindness starts with considering other people. Staying home to stay safe is a prime example. Use this time to underline the importance of each of us doing our bit to contribute to keeping everyone safe.
Talk to your children about what the NHS mean by a high risk group, as defined by coronavirus. Explain that we’re all being respectful of what we’ve been asked to do, and following the rules put in place to help protect vulnerable people.
This awareness lends itself to considering other people’s feelings, with an attitude and outlook they can extend to friends and take back into the classroom.
There’s so much information about coronavirus on social media or online, so if older children are feeling overwhelmed, encourage them to discuss the news with you. This offers a safe space for questions. You could help limit the amount of times they’re checking the news, or sit together through the week to gather information from reliable websites. The Government website and NHS advice page are the most up-to-date and reliable sources of information.
Try not to shield them from the news, which is impossible at the moment. The amount of information about coronavirus can be confusing, so ask about what information they have, and ease any worries by reminding them how everyone is working hard to contain and find a cure for the virus.
Some days may be more difficult than others, but it helps to remind children this is just a very short moment in time, and it will be over as soon as possible. Make fun plans for how you’ll celebrate the end of the lockdown, and give them plenty of things to look forward to. Focus on the positives of how you’ve enjoyed spending this extra time together, and how proud you are of them for being so responsible.
Once your child is reassured, move the conversation along by chatting about other things, making plans for the rest of the day, or resuming normal tasks like school work or play time. This gives children a sense of security and perspective, keeping the pandemic within the healthy perspective of their new normal, everyday life.
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