The pandemic that is COVID-19 has been baffling, confronting and confusing for all of us. As adults, we can do our best to stay safe – and stay informed – for the sake of our families. But as parents/carers, we are also faced with the difficulty of speaking to our children about the crisis.
We don’t want to worry them – but it’s also important that they are made aware of what is happening in the world around us, to ensure they are learning about hygiene, washing their hands and staying healthy and happy.
So what is the best way to tackle this? We’ve put together a few pointers below so read ahead to find out. Of course, every child – and every family – is different, so certain strategies that may work for one family may not work for another, so keep in mind your child’s personality and attitude to determine the best route to take.
First things first – keep calm. The last thing we want is for our children to panic – especially if the kids are hearing things at school or from their friends that could frighten them. If you seem anxious, no doubt that will rub off on your children – so it’s best to act as normally as possible. Fear helps no one.
Secondly, make sure you convey the facts in a way that is appropriate for the age of your child. Stick to the truth – but let them know that scientists are working to help find a cure and that, so long as you maintain hygiene and act responsibly, you will be okay.
On that note, encourage them to ask questions and let them come up with answers to those questions; this will help with their problem-solving skills in all future life situations.
Most importantly, children need to know how to protect themselves – especially if they are still going to school and faced with situations where they need to look after themselves. Teach them about good hygiene, including how to wash their hands properly/use hand sanitizer – and make sure you are actively doing this at home, too. Children often learn vicariously – that is, they learn by watching – and by acting as a good role model, you’ll be providing an excellent example for them to follow.
Finally, continue to teach them about good health and nutrition and how they can keep their physical and mental health strong during a time of unprecedented change.
After the initial conversation, monitor your child’s behaviour. Are they acting different to normal? Do they seem anxious/worried? Even if they don’t – make sure you check in on a regular basis to ensure they are handling the situation as best they can.
This is a challenging time; possibly the most challenging situation we may ever face. Consider this a learning opportunity for your children and yourself as a parent and, if need be, we here at Walker Street General Practice are here to help answer any questions you may have. The team from our dedicated Children’s Health Clinic are used to caring for the little ones, so we will be happy to offer guidance wherever possible.