Talking to your child about COVID-19
The Coronavirus Pandemic may seem like a difficult concept to talk about with younger teens and children.
However, we have to remember that although children may not seem like they listen to us, they are still highly attuned to everything we say.
They overhear news stories, radio updates and all the conversations that happen in their vicinity - and they may have questions about what is happening.
Below are some tips on how to give your child the information they want or need to cope with this crisis, without causing them stress or anxiety.
Allow your child to lead the conversation
If they initiate the conversation, try not to shut it down but rather follow along by answering their questions.
Use child-friendly or age-appropriate language and focus on the information that is necessary for them to understand.
For example, ‘death toll’ and ‘flattening the curve’ are inappropriate and difficult concepts for younger children.
Rather focus on information such as what the virus is, how it can be caught and how it affects their family and friends.
Be honest rather than trying to sugarcoat information to suit your child
Explain that the coronavirus is a sickness like the flu and that is very easily spread.
Tell them that you don’t know for sure what will happen as a situation like this hasn’t happened for over 100 years.
But reassure them all the things we are doing right now are designed to keep us all safe.
Reassure them that this situation is only temporary and that even though you don’t know exactly when it will end, it WILL end, and things will return to normal.
Show them how they can protect themselves
With simple measures such as washing their hands, wearing gloves, wearing masks and staying home.
Children love to be useful and like to know what's expected of them - use this natural instinct to help you navigate this time.
Find out how they're feeling
Children often worry about the health and wellbeing of their loved ones than that of themselves.
Ask them open-ended questions on how they are feeling and try to reassure them that their friends and family will be safe if everyone is taking the proper precautions.
Utilise this conversation as a way to educate them on how staying home in isolation protects not only them but others as well including their grandparents, friends and family and people who are not able to stay home.
Try to avoid stigma and internalised discrimination
Explain that the virus is not dependent on what people look like, on someone’s religion or what country they come from.
Many media outlets use fear tactics and biased information so that people will stay at home.
Try to focus on educating your child on why certain restrictions are in place rather than reinforcing stereotypes.
Finally, children are often smarter than we give them credit for and can handle a higher level of information than we are used to sharing.
Be honest and understanding with your child and try to answer their questions and concerns as best you can, always ensure what you share is appropriate for their age and level of understanding.
After all, education and knowledge is power.