How to talk to your child about COVID-19
If there is anything that people across the world right now are talking about is Coronavirus 2019 pandemic. News, social media, office, playgrounds, schools or any public conversation, COVID-19 is on everyone’s mind and has become a part of our daily chatter. Which means most children are already aware of this virus affecting people, creating a panic and leading to shutdown of schools or public spaces. Like adults have their own interpretations and imaginations of what may happen with the lack of information, children may too experience a sense of worry and have frightening fantasies that need to be addressed during such times. As a parent you may be worried about how to bring up the topic with your child that does not create anxiety but is rather more reassuring to them. Here are a few things that you can do:
Be open to having a conversation
Don’t be afraid to open up a conversation about the topic with your child even if they do not come to you with their questions. Avoiding the topic may just increase the fear of the unknown. Show openness to discuss about the issue and give your child a safe space to express. This would bring a feeling of security and reassurance in them.
Assess what your child knows
Before you pass on any information, make sure you first assess how much your child already knows. This would help you take your cues from where to begin the conversation about COVID-19. Encourage them to talk about what they have seen, heard and think is happening around them. Give them a patient listening and help them download their own worries, anxieties and questions. Validate their feelings of confusion and fear by using statements like "I understand this can be scary. How about I help you with some fun ways that can keep you safe and strong."
Maintain your calm
Make sure while to talk to your child, you maintain a sense of calm and control. Keep your anxieties and fears at bay because if your child sees you panicking, they may automatically sense or suspect something more that may be hidden from them. Work through your own anxieties and panic before engaging in the conversation.
Share developmentally appropriate information
While you consume a lot of information from various sources of media, you can choose to share age appropriate basic content. It is okay to withhold some information as you may not want to fuel your child’s anxieties with information overload. Apart from this, be willing to answer any queries that your child may have and feel free to acknowledge if you do not have the right information or unsure about what they may have heard from their peers or other sources. You can address their concern by sharing with them “like any other virus, this will also go. But as it is new, every person like scientists, doctors and schools are doing their job to help people and fight the virus. This virus does not trouble the kids. But still you and I need to do our bit to be safe and strong”.
Help your child feel in control
Being informed about what is happening and knowing what they can do to prevent it, will help them feel in control of their feelings. Kids feel empowered when they know exactly what to do to keep themselves safe. You can use educational videos to talk about the virus. With young kids, you can make use of self-made stories like “Fighting the Corona-Bug” include in the story what they should and should not do to be safe and strong.
Teach them self-care measures
Teach them recommended self-care measures using creative ways that are fun and easy to remember.
- Make 20 sec hand-wash as a family rule which can be accompanied by counting till 20 or sing-a-song of choice that they can relate to fighting the germs while washing hands.
- Use a ‘T-sign’ or ‘Joker-face’ to help them remember to keep their hands off their eyes, nose and mouth.
- Teach them to either use a tissue or make an ‘elbow-pillow’ for support each time they sneeze or cough.
Try to maintain normalcy in your routine
In the face of so much uncertainty, try to stick to your normal and predictable routines. It will help in bringing some semblance to your lives amongst all the chaos. Specially as the schools, public spaces and offices are shutting, welcome this time off as a spring break. Engage in fun family time with board games, movies, reading and conversations with each other. Specially for young kids plan some creative and fun activities at home to keep them occupied and bring structure to their routine. Refrain from making corona-virus the talk of the table and restrict your news and media consumption on the topic. Just make healthy reminders to continue the precautionary measures and bring in an element of humour and laughter to maintain a sense of ease at home.
In times of such panic and unpredictability, just be mindful of your own emotions, thoughts and circle of control. It would also help your children feel secure and guarded. While everything is closing and slowing down, maybe it’s the time for you to also take a back seat, focus on self-care and enjoy your time with your family.