Daily news on COVID-19 is making you feel anxious. If an adult person like yourself is feeling stressed, can you imagine what your child is feeling right now? Children might find it difficult to understand what they are seeing online or on TV – or hearing from other people – so they can be particularly vulnerable to feelings of anxiety, stress and sadness. But having an open, supportive discussion with your children can help them understand, cope and even make a positive contribution for others.
1. COVID-19 Parent Guide – Ask Open Questions & Listen
Start by inviting your child to talk about the issue. Ask open questions to find out how much they already know and follow on. If they are particularly young and haven’t already heard about the outbreak, you may not need to raise the issue – just take the chance to remind them about good hygiene practices without introducing new fears.
Make sure you are in a safe environment and allow your child to talk freely. Drawing, stories and other activities may help to open up a discussion.
Most importantly, don’t minimize or avoid their concerns. Be sure to acknowledge their feelings and assure them that it’s natural to feel scared about these things. Demonstrate that you’re listening by giving them your full attention, and make sure they understand that they can talk to you and their teachers whenever they like.
2. COVID-19 Parent Guide – Be Honest & Explain In A Child-friendly Way
As much as possible, try to give your child a truthful picture of COVID-19 but you do have a responsibility to keep them safe from distress. Use age-appropriate language, watch their reactions, and be sensitive to their level of anxiety.
If you can’t answer their questions, don’t guess. Use it as an opportunity to explore the answers together. Explain that some information online isn’t accurate and that it’s best to trust the experts.
3. COVID-19 Parent Guide – Show Them How To Protect Themselves & Friends
One of the best ways to keep your child safe from coronavirus and other diseases is to simply encourage regular handwashing. It doesn’t need to be a scary conversation. Do simple sing-a-long or make it a game to make it fun.
You can also show your child how to cover a cough or a sneeze, explain why they should not to get too close to people who have those symptoms, and ask them to tell you if they start to feel like they have a fever, cough or are having difficulty breathing.
4. COVID-19 Parent Guide – Offer Reassurance
As we see and hear many disturbing news reports and social posts online, it can paint a very grim picture. Children may not distinguish between images on the screen and their own personal reality, and they may believe they are in a lot of danger. You can help your child cope with the stress by making opportunities for them to play and relax, when possible. Keep regular routines and schedules as much as possible, especially before they go to sleep, or help create new ones in a new environment.
If you are experiencing an outbreak in your area, remind your child that they are not likely to catch the disease, that most people who do have coronavirus don’t get very sick, and that lots of adults are working hard to keep your family safe.
If your child does feel unwell, explain that they have to stay at home/at the hospital because it is safer for them and their friends. Reassure them that you know it is hard (maybe scary or even boring) at times, but that following the rules will help keep everyone safe.
5. COVID-19 Parent Guide – Take Care Of Yourself
You will be able to help your kids better if you are coping well. Children will pick up on your own response to the news, so it helps them to know you’re calm and in control.
If you are feeling anxious or upset, take time for yourself and reach out to other family, friends and trusted people in your community. Make some time to do things that help you relax and recuperate.
6. COVID-19 Parent Guide – Close conversations with care
It is important to know that you are not leaving your child in a state of distress. As your conversation wraps up, try to gauge their level of anxiety by watching their body language, considering whether they are using their usual tone of voice and watching their breathing.
Remind your child that they can have other difficult conversations with you at any time. Remind them that you care, you are listening and that you are available whenever they’re feeling worried.