Surviving Lockdown and Social Distancing

News of the coronavirus COVID-19 is everywhere, from the front page of all the papers to the Tv's in your home.

Many parents are wondering how to bring up the pandemic in a way that will be reassuring and not make children more worried than they already may be.

Here is some advice from the experts at the Child Mind Institute.

How can I respond to my child's Coronavirus anxiety?

I think the first response is perspective. While it's important to acknowledge that this situation does require monitoring and is going to increase the anxiety of both adults and children, keeping perspective is important.

Find Out What Your Child Already Knows

Ask age appropriate questions. For older children, you might ask, "Have you heard grownups talking about a new sickness that's going around?" This gives you a chance to learn how much children know — and to find out if they're hearing the wrong information.  Follow your child's lead. Some children may want to spend time talking. But if your children don't seem interested or don't ask a lot of questions, that's OK.

Offer Comfort — and Honesty

Focus on helping your child feel safe, but be truthful. Don't offer more detail than your child is interested in. For example, if children ask about school closings, address their questions. But if the topic doesn't come up, there's no need to raise it unless it happens.

Speak calmly and reassuringly. Explain that most people who get sick feel like they have a cold or the flu. Children pick up on it when parents worry. So when you talk about coronavirus and the news, use a calm voice and try not to seem upset.

Give children space to share their fears. It's natural for children to worry, "Could I be next? Could that happen to me?" Let your child know that children don’t seem to get as sick as adults. Let them know they can always come to you for answers or to talk about what scares them.

Know when they need guidance. Be aware of how your children get news and information, especially older children who go online. Point them to age-appropriate content so they don't end up finding news shows or outlets that scare them or have incorrect information.

Help children Feel in Control. Give your child specific things they can do to feel in control. Teach children that getting lots of sleep and washing their hands well and often can help them stay strong and well. Explain that regular hand washing also helps stop viruses from spreading to others. Be a good role model and let your children see you washing your hands often!

Talk about all the things that are happening to keep people safe and healthy. Young children might be reassured to know that hospitals and doctors are prepared to treat people who get sick. Older children might be comforted to know that scientists are working to develop a vaccine. 

Put news stories in context. If they ask, explain that death from the virus is still rare, despite what they might hear. Watch the news with your kids so you can filter/ sign what they see. For our deaf pupils having an adult sign / interpret the things thay are seeing is important in helping them to understand and alleviate anxieties.

Children and teens often worry more about family and friends than themselves. For example, if children hear that older people are more likely to be seriously ill, they might worry about their grandparents. Letting them Zoom, Face Time or Skype with older relatives can help them feel reassured about loved ones.

Let your children know that it's normal to feel stressed out at times. Everyone does. Recognising these feelings and knowing that stressful times pass and life gets back to normal can help children build resilience.

Keep the Conversation Going. Keep checking in with your child. Use talking about coronavirus as a way to help children learn about their bodies, like how the immune system fights off disease.

Talk about current events with your children often. It's important to help them think through stories they see on TV. Ask questions: What do you think about these events? How do you think these things happen? Such questions also encourage conversation about non-news topics. 

The following video clips are also useful resources for children: 

Coronavirus: Your questions answered    

Coronavirus: Here's some advice if you're worried about it

‘Communication is Key’