The children’s charity Barnardos has issued guidance to support parents when talking to their child about the Coronavirus.
With news of the coronavirus dominating headlines, social media platforms and conversations across the country, Barnardos says your child is likely to have already heard information about the illness.
The charity says your child may be trying to make sense of this information by themselves and be feeling worried or scared. In the absence of definitive information, some children can imagine situations are far worse than they are.
- Keep calm. Check in with yourself, how are you currently feeling? When parents are feeling anxious children can notice this and begin to feel stressed too. If needed, take some time for yourself or talk to another adult about your fears before talking to your child.
- Talk to your child. As parents, we instinctively want to protect children from things that might frighten them; however not talking about something can make children more scared. Ask your child to tell you what they have heard about the virus and ask them how they are feeling. Let your child know that they can ask you questions. If you do not have all the answers, that is ok, tell your child you will let them know when you know.
- Answer questions. Many children will have heard about the virus and may already be asking questions. This is an opportunity to talk openly to your child and to share fact-based information. Answer your child’s questions in language they will understand with a level of information appropriate to your child’s age. Avoid sharing too much information, as this can be overwhelming.
- Create a safe environment. Your child might be worried they will catch the virus. To reassure your child talk to them about everything you and they are doing to stay safe, for example washing their hands, using and disposing of tissues etc. Try to limit your child’s exposure to news reports and discuss your worries outside your child’s earshot.
- Maintain a daily routine. A consistent daily routine is very important for children as it creates a sense of stability and predictability. This will be of particular importance if your child’s school or crèche closes. Keep the days structured with consistent mealtimes, playtime, bedtime etc.
The best way you can support your child whenever they are feeling anxious is by reassuring them. Tell them you understand how they are feeling and let them know you are always there to listen, support, take care of them and give them a hug when needed.