Trying to figure out how to talk to children about world events such as Coronavirus can be difficult – how much information is too much? Try these practical tips on how to talk to children about Coronavirus that may help to alleviate your child’s anxiety and calm them.
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When terrible world events like COVID-19, violence and terrorism take place, it’s inevitable that children will be exposed to stories about it, due to our 24 hour news society.
Providing age-appropriate information is actually more beneficial for your child than shielding them entirely. If they hear something they are unsure of, even just in passing or on the radio, they may worry much more if they don’t think they can come to you about it.
Children look to the adults around them for security, reassurance, and knowledge – but also to see how you are reacting. If you react with fear, so will they.
Answering Children’s Questions
Watch Dr Ronan Gleeson Answering Children’s Questions
Dr Ronan Gleeson, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at Ireland’s Department of Health, answered viewer’s questions on RTE’s children’s news programme, news2day. Watch here with your children:
Encouraging an open dialogue will give your child a chance to voice their concerns, share their worries and ask any questions they may have. Avoid discussing COVID-19 or Coronavirus constantly, and keep internet ‘gossip’ and rumours away from the conversation.
- For very young children, keep it simple and concise with plenty of reassurance.
- For older children, help them to separate fact from fiction. Keep them informed about the current situation with Coronavirus where you live, using accurate information, as this balanced and factual knowledge will help alleviate their worries.
Try to keep the daily routine as normal as possible. Keep mealtimes regular, bedtimes on track and get out for some fresh air if you can.
Ensure your child is aware of how they can help to stop the spread of Coronavirus by teaching them how to thoroughly wash hands, to cough into their elbow and sneeze into tissues that should be thrown away immediately.
Listen To Helpful Tips From Dr Tina Payne Bryson
Dr. Tina Payne Bryson talks to host Aidan McCullen on this podcast to explain how we can guide children through the Covid-19 pandemic. They discuss:
- How to communicate to your child at an age-appropriate level, for example, older kids need more information.
- We want our children to remember this time as a precious one as we may never have this opportunity to be at home with our families for so long ever again. So how to do this.
- The fact that it is an opportunity to connect, but fear can get in the way.
- And as Tina says we must take care of ourselves also so we can take care of the kids.
Dr. Tina Payne Bryson is the co-author (with Dan Siegel) of two New York Times Best Seller books, The Whole-Brain Child and No-Drama Discipline. A Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Tina holds a Ph.D. from USC. The most important part of her bio, she says, is that she’s a mom to three boys.
How To Talk To Children About Coronavirus
So, now that you’ve watched the video and/or listened to the podcast, let’s recap the best ways on how to talk to children about Coronavirus.
No more worrying what approach to take, how much information to give or what exactly to say – try these tips from Alicia Eaton, children’s behavioural specialist, to get you started:
#1. Inform Yourself
Make sure you know the facts yourself – how likely are you and your child to be in real danger? So far the Coronavirus is not affecting children, but older people and those with pre-existing issues that already compromise their health. It will also produce just mild symptoms in 4 out of 5 of those affected.
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#2. “Will This Happen To Me?”
This is the first thought that will be running through your child’s mind. They’ll be wondering how this will impact on their own safety. Having seen reports of illness on TV or heard them on the radio, your child will start wondering whether this is going to happen in the street right outside their home.
Reassure your child that they’re unlikely to catch it, but do explain the practical steps they should take to lessen the risk still further.
Teach them how to thoroughly wash hands, to cough into their elbow and sneeze into tissues that should be thrown away immediately.
#3. Reassure Your Child
Empathise by using phrases such as: “I can see that you’re feeling worried / scared / anxious and that’s understandable.”
Tell your child that when horrible things happen, there are lots of people who are looking after us and will keep us safe – eg. Government, doctors, nurses, teachers, Mums and Dads who will all be there to help look after us.
Always use words that reflect the desired state, such as “It’s OK, we’re all safe” or “We can stay calm about this”.
#4. Avoid Using Negative Phrases
You know, phrases such as:
- Don’t worry.
- Just stop thinking about it.
- Don’t keep going on about it or you’ll just start feeling worse.
Our minds make pictures or images out of the words that we think or hear. Using a negative word will mean your child will end up doing exactly what you don’t want them to do – worry!
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#5. Spend More Time with Them
Spend extra time sitting with your child, especially at bedtime, and listen carefully to their concerns. Every child is different and depending on their age and temperament will have a different perspective on the news stories they may have heard.
It’s possible to worry your child even more by giving too much information in your conversations, so try to learn what specifically it is that is worrying your child. It may not be as bad as you think and a simple answer may be all that’s required.
#6. Make Sure They Get Fresh Air and Exercise
Watching and hearing news stories will increase the production of adrenaline and cortisol in the body. Ensure your child has plenty of outlets for burning these stress chemicals off.
Increase the amount of exercise they take right now, preferably in the open air, otherwise their stress levels will simply keep on elevating.
#7. Get Laughing
Laughter is another way of changing the brain’s chemistry quickly as the body releases feel-good endorphins. Watch more comedy and funny movies on TV and introduce a ‘good news’ only rule in conversations around the dinner table.
Too often it’s easy to fall into the trap of sharing bad news: ‘I missed the bus this morning / got caught in the rain / got pushed over in the playground’.
And if you’re short of conversation, keep a joke book to hand and get the kids to read jokes out to the family over dinner.
#8. Don’t Give Treats
It may be tempting to make the world seem ‘a happy place’ by giving more treats such as chocolate, sweets, ice-cream and cake, but that will simply add to your child’s ‘wobbly’ feelings and these foods can create mood swings too.
The stimulating effects of sugar and caffeine in fizzy and energy drinks will also cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels and this includes natural sugars found in fruit juices and smoothies.
Introduce more protein into the diet to help steady your child’s nerves and make them feel more grounded. Make sure your child eats plenty of these good foods:
- Wholegrain breads rather than white
- Cottage cheese
- Pulses and fruit and vegetables
- If your child can eat nuts safely, they are handy for snacks in between meals.
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About Alicia Eaton
Alicia Eaton, Children’s behavioural specialist, is a fully qualified Psychotherapist, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner based in London’s Harley Street, helping both adults and children change habits and behaviours for the better.
First Aid for your Child’s Mind is Alicia’s latest book. Whether your child is a ‘constant worrier’, has a fear of injections, spiders, dogs – or could simply do with an extra helping of confidence to pass their exams or perform on stage, you’ll find answers and solutions in this book.
What are your thoughts on how to talk to children about Coronavirus? How have you been dealing with this? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!