Even young toddlers with limited understanding of the world are likely to pick up on the anxieties and worries of adults around them, and may have trouble dealing with big changes to their daily routines.
As the situation evolves and changes every day, you may be feeling unsure of how to support your child through this time, and in particular how to talk to them about it.
Find out what they already know
It can be tricky to start difficult conversations like this, but children are very good at leading the way if you let them. Begin by asking your child simple questions about Coronavirus to find out how much they already know.
Ask if they have heard people in the household talking about it, or maybe a friend at kindergarten, or another friend’s parents. Let your child guide the conversation, and base the amount of information you share on their age and interest in the conversation.
Listen to their questions
Some children will have lots of questions, while others may be satisfied with a simple explanation. It’s important to keep a sense of calm and control when you talk to them, as children will become worried if they sense that you are worried. Be prepared to get some curly questions, and be ready to answer them simply and calmly.
Some common questions may be:
- Will I get sick?
- Will my mum/dad/grandma get sick?
- Why is everyone wearing masks?
- Will we have enough food?
- Are we all going to die?
- Why can’t I see my friends?
- Why can’t I go to school?
- Why is everything closed down?
If your child asks a question that you don’t know the answer to, be honest. Tell them that you don’t know, but perhaps you can find out the answer together. If children are involved in the process of finding out information, they will feel more secure and in control.
Share age appropriate content
How much information you share with your child can depend on their age. Use age-appropriate resources to help you. Concrete visuals, such as step by step guides on hand washing, as well as practicing them together, will help children clearly understand how to keep themselves safe.
Use one of our child-friendly downloads to help teach children about Coronavirus:
Provide comfort and reassurance
It’s okay to feel sad, scared and upset. These are upsetting events that are impacting everyone all over the world. If your child is distressed, provide comfort and reassure them that there is nothing wrong with feeling scared or upset by the changes that are happening.
Adults can help children feel reassured by talking to them about preventative measures they can take, such as:
- Coughing or sneezing into their sleeve (sometimes called the “Vampire cough”)
- Washing their hands more frequently, such as before and after meals, before touching their face, and after they have gone to the bathroom
- Remind them to wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds to get rid of all the germs. Find a song that’s 20 seconds long, and sing it together while you wash your hands so children understand how long this takes.
When children feel there are things they can do to protect themselves and others, they feel empowered and are less likely to feel scared and anxious.
Remind them that they are strong, to eat healthy meals and practice good hygiene. These reminders may help to reassure your child that they can be proactive in staying safe.