By Kari Bergmann
Talking to children about coronavirus can be challenging. We certainly want to protect children from unnecessary worry and stress but we also know that by now most school-aged children will be aware of it. They might have heard about it from friends, through social media or the news, they may have overheard adults talking about it, or they may have simply realized something is wrong with the school closures and all of the other restrictions. If you suspect that your children may have already learned about Covid-19 from one of these sources or if they are asking you questions about it, it is important that you are the one to provide them with information and address their concerns. You can answer their questions while providing comfort and reassurance. You know your child best and will know what you should share with them and what details are best avoided. The important thing is that you do talk to them and be attentive when they seem to be worried. Children often worry more if they are left in the dark. Also be mindful of your stress levels. Children are very attuned to their parents’ emotional states and they will likely pick up on it if you’re feeling anxious.
Six tips for discussing Covid-19 with your children:
- Give age appropriate information- Younger children don’t need to know too much about coronavirus, just let them know what you think is necessary (especially in regards to hygiene and keeping safe when in public places). Older children will likely be more aware of the national/global implications of the coronavirus so find out what they already know and be prepared to fact-check any scary stories they may have heard. Emphasize that the amount of risk to them and the rest of the family is quite low, especially since Australia is doing a good job of flattening the curve.
- Reassure them of your love and care- Let them know that you love them and their safety is your priority. Tell them that you are doing everything that you can to keep them safe and healthy.
- Pray together as a family -Spend some time praying for everyone who has been hurt by the coronavirus, those who are caring for the sick, those who are researching cures and vaccines and pray for a quick end to the coronavirus. Remind them that God is more powerful than any illness and that he loves each one of us so much.
- Teach them practical ways to stay safe and healthy -Teach your children about hygiene and social distancing. If your children know how to minimize their risk it will give them a sense of control. Explaining the need for social distancing will also help alleviate some of their frustrations about not being able to see friends, leave the house, or go to school.
- Keep communication open- Assure your child that it’s ok to feel worried sometimes but ask that they come and talk to you when they do feel worried. Together, try to come up with some strategies for dealing with worried feelings (breathing, mindfulness practices, etc.).
- Address your own stress- Try to be aware of how you are feeling. It’s likely that you have been more stressed lately with all of the changes and challenges Covid-19 has brought. Take care of yourself as best you can during this time (get enough sleep, eat well, pamper yourself a little bit, talk to supportive friends, prioritise your relationship with God, etc). The more stress you feel, the more likely your children are to start feeling stressed themselves. If you are feeling overwhelmed make sure that you get the support you need for your mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Organizations like Beyond Blue are offering over-the-phone mental health support and The Red Cross has been supporting families in financial need. Please don’t hesitate to contact the parish office if you need anything, we can be reached by calling 9807-9494 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Family therapist, Christine Borst has an excellent children’s book “What is Coronavirus” that helps address common questions in a reassuring way. You can download a free PDF version of her book here.
The Child Mind Institute offers a variety of Covid-19 resources for parents, including this article on speaking to your children about coronavirus.
Kids Health offers similar resources and an article here.