Are you constantly answering your child’s questions about Coronavirus, and why they can’t see their friends anymore?
Why their birthday party has been cancelled.
Do you find it hard to explain what’s happening in the world right now, as you want to protect them?
Overwhelming – that’s how all of this Coronavirus news can be. There is so much information about what you can and can’t do, how it affects your life, your job, your income and way of life.
It’s also understandable if your child is feeling unsure or anxious too. Children may find it difficult to understand what they are seeing online or on TV, and depending on their age, it can be hard to explain all of the details. Maybe you don’t want to say too much.
Children can be vulnerable to feelings of anxiety, stress and sadness when they see things on TV, and also when they sense that their parent or caregiver is uneasy or panicked. Having an open, supportive discussion with your child can help them understand and cope. Even if your child is quite young, you can still explain the Coronavirus in a simplified way, and talk to them about the basics – washing their hands, what germs are and how they can be transmitted, why we have to stay home all the time now. Kids worry more when they’re kept in the dark.
Help comfort and protect your child. Here are some tips –
- Be truthful about Coronavirus – explain the facts of the virus in a child-friendly way. Children should know the truth about what’s going on in the world, but as parents, you also have a responsibility to keep them safe from distress. Use age-appropriate language, watch their reactions, and be sensitive to their level of anxiety.
- Ask open questions and listen – Invite your child to talk about the issue – see how much they already know and follow their lead. Don’t minimise or avoid their concerns, as you want to acknowledge their feelings and assure them that it’s natural to feel scared about these things.
- Offer reassurance– If you’re watching the news with your child present, there can be many troubling images and it can sometimes feel like the crisis is all around us. Children may not distinguish between images on screen and their own personal reality, and they may believe they’re in imminent danger. You can help your child cope with the stress by making opportunities for them to play and relax, when possible. It’s important to keep regular routines and schedules as much as possible too.
- Show them how to protect themselves – One of the best ways to keep children safe from Coronavirus is to simply encourage regular handwashing. If your children are young, there a several songs that have been created to make washing hands fun. Show them how to be hygienic, cover a cough or a sneeze with their elbow, explain that it’s best not to get too close to people, and ask them to tell you if they start to feel like they have a fever, cough or are having difficulty breathing.
When you’re finishing your chat with your child, it’s important not to leave them unsure, with unanswered questions, or in a state of distress. Finish off with comfort and letting them know you’re always here if they have any questions.
It’s also important to keep your own worries and anxiety in check. If you’re having a moment of concern, maybe a significant change has just happened in your life, such as losing your job or relationships are strained. Make sure you don’t show all your emotions in front of your child. Take a moment to yourself to breathe and calm down before talking with them. If it is becoming too much don’t hesitate to seek support. Addressing issues early prevents them from becoming major issues in the years to come.
Written by Clinical Psychologist Rebecca Deane – www.creatingchange.net.au
Also published on TherapyRoute.com