Here’s how to explain coronavirus to children - without scaring them

Tuesday, 17th March 2020, 6:49 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th March 2020, 7:31 pm

As the UK ramps up its response to coronavirus, we find pubs, restaurants and cinemas closing, while supermarket shelves are stripped bare.

With UK schools now on the brink of closing too, how do we keep calm and communicate the Covid-19 pandemic to children without scaring them?

Here are some top tips for speaking to kids about coronavirus.

Be open and honest

The British Psychological Society (BPS) says it is vital to talk openly to your children and reassure them about the changes in society they are seeing during this pandemic.

In a statement, the academic body said: “It is important to be truthful, but remember your child’s age. An honest and accurate approach is best, giving them factual information, but adjusting the amount and detail to fit their age.

“For example, you might say ‘we don’t yet have a vaccination for Coronavirus, but doctors are working very hard on it’ or ‘a lot of people might get sick, but for most people it is like a cold or flu and they get better’.”

Younger children might not understand the words used during a pandemic, but cartoons and videos can help.

Allow children to ask questions

Children are curious by nature and sometimes that doesn’t stop well into adulthood.

Allow your child to ask questions about the virus and express their concerns, this will not only help them understand it from their experience, but also open up a conversation between you where they can feel safe.

It is okay to say you don’t know the answer to these questions, but explain this to your children.

Many people don’t know what is happening with coronavirus, but maybe it is something you can research together.

Manage your own stress

“Uncertainty can make all of us feel anxious or worried. Identify other adults you can talk to about your own worries and questions.” say the BPS.

Think about the things that make you calmer - do you like watching funny videos on YouTube, or period dramas on Netflix? Do you like getting into a really good book, or an audiophile who loves to play music?

Find, and even rediscover, things that make you feel more relaxed, share those things with your children. But always remember you need your own time to yourself. Talk to your children when you feel calm to reassure them.

Give Practical Guidance

Remind your child that the best thing they can do is remain healthy. Washing their hands is the safest thing they can do to protect themselves from Covid-19 as well as the “catch it, bin it, kill it” technique for sneezing and coughing.

Make up songs for your child to remember, such as the widely popular “Happy Birthday” technique to time hand-washing effectively.

Children are very sensitive and receptive to the world around them. It is likely that just because your child hasn’t said anything, doesn’t mean they don’t know something is happening in the world.

Covid-19 is scary, but by working together as a family, and taking time away from the 24-hour news reel to focus on other things will greatly help you and your families mental health in the coming weeks and months.