It’s difficult to know how to comfort your child if they are worried or anxious about coronavirus. OneChicMom have asked Lesley Southall, children’s team behaviour support manager, to put together her top tips for helping your children through these uncertain times.
We live in entirely unfamiliar times with all those foundations and belief systems we have that have kept our families safe have now been pulled from underneath us. We are lost, we are scared, and more importantly, we are frightened in an uncertain world, of how to keep our family safe and well. Not just physically, but also their emotional health.
I am, first and foremost, a parent to Charlotte (16) and Jack (11). Still, also, I have been privileged enough to work with and support young people for over 20 years, particularly the most vulnerable young people. It is these collective group of young people that will struggle emotionally with the current health crisis. So with the knowledge from a BA Hons in Social Science, I will try and offer some points of reference, to make some sense of the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in.
Find out what your child already knows
Your child will already be aware of Coronavirus. Whether this is a ‘new sickness’ as I would describe it to a pre-school/primary age child, or whether they already have formed opinions and holding debates regarding the government’s political response. Anyone with a teenager will know that Boris Johnson could not do the job as good as any 16 years old!!
Follow your child’s lead. Don’t push them to talk, they will when they are ready, but let them know it is ok to speak for however long they want to, but if your child is not interested its essential to let them know they can talk to you when/if they wish to.
Ensure where they have heard the information from? Is it reliable? Lots of teenagers have access to social media posting things that are scary, unhelpful and untrue. If this is the case, invite them to watch the daily bulletins with you. Not alone but together so you can explain the announcements from the government. Reassure them that it is this is serious, but we are all experiencing this together – they are NOT ALONE.
Offer Comfort, Reassurance and above all honesty
If your child asks you something and you don’t know – say so. It’s ok not to have all the answers (this is uncertain times) but instead, signpost and look together. Look at Gov.uk/coronavirus or NHS.uk for information as this way you get the facts and not the scary news headlines.
Reassure your children that the younger they are even if they catch the virus they are likely to feel no more than just being under the weather, like a cold/flu than get very poorly. Reassure them in a calm voice that they can come to you with all their worries and you will understand. You must do this calmly and without showing any concerns, but don’t be dismissive.
Recognise when they need further guidance – particularly when older. Allow them the space to take in your advice and then research for themselves, but again signpost them to factual websites, not social media and sensationalists.
Discuss and show them all the things that are happening in the world to keep them safe and well. Discuss how many extra nurses and doctors, there are now to help those in need. Focus on the more doctors, the better the outcomes as they can have more doctor/patient ratios.
Help Young People feel in Control
Teach them how they can stop the spread of the virus. Show your child how to wash their hands thoroughly and how this will contain the infection and prevent further contamination. Be a good role model by hand washing regularly. Explain to younger children that ‘today you can be a superhero and save someones life whether this is mummy/daddy/granny etc. by washing your hands and using conference calling instead of visiting.
Older children will worry much more about elderly family friends than themselves. Allow them to stay in touch with video calls and telephones, perhaps more than usual. Not only will this help your child, but will also help the grandparents feel less isolated and remain in contact with a loved one.
Get your youngster to paint/draw a picture of a rainbow and place in a front room window that reassures people/friends/loved ones your still thinking about them. Make exercise walks more fun by trying to spot rainbows on your walks. Children will feel happy and reassures them that other people are also feeling the same.
Continue to show them that hospitals are increasing capacity to treat those who get poorly, but again this is in context and remains a minority – despite our fears. Older children you can speak about scientists are working on vaccines and new medicines to fight the virus.
Allow your children to know that these are unprecedented times and nothing is guaranteed, but we will get through this. There are very smart, key people taking lots of advice. While this is a worrying time, the country will get through it together. Show them other times when the country has overcome adversity. The World Wars, a pet dying, the start of a new class, the beginning of school, a friendship fallout. These are all examples of us all overcoming our fears with resilience.
Keep the Coronavirus Conversations Going
Check-in with your child. Use the Coronavirus as a Biology lesson, showing how our bodies fight infections. Draw around your child and then see how many millions of papers clips, elastic bands, drawing pins, cherry tomatoes, smarties (anything really) takes to fill up the body. Anything to demonstrate as a visual aid how many millions of ‘good bacteria’ is in our bodies fighting to keep us well.
While these are scary times ahead, use this valuable times to learn, create and enjoy being a parent. Be kind to yourself. Now is not the time to clean the house and ensure that the best home cooking and baking is done.
Today’s crisis is a real opportunity (we hope) we will never get back again to spend quality time as a family. While not everyone finds this as exciting as Nanny McPhee – be assured that we will come through this in time.
Childline 0800 1111
Domestic Violence Hotline 0808 2000 247
Samaritans 116 123
Mind 0300 123 3393
Age Uk 0800 169 6565
La Leche League (Mums trying to get formula milk) 0345 1202918