“At many times throughout their lives, children will feel the world has turned ‘topsy-turvy’. Its not the ever-present smile that will help them feel secure. Its knowing that love can hold many feelings, including sadness, and that they can count on the people they love to be with them until the world turns right-side up again.” Fred Rogers
The world does feel pretty ‘topsy-turvy’ right now. Children know that things are different. The best thing we can do to support our children is to be that place of love and safety, where they are welcome to express all the things going on for them. It is really important that they can talk to a safe adult about any concerns they may have … ask questions … unpack their feelings.
The Australian Psychological Society offers the following advice about talking with children about the coronavirus:
Answer their questions:
Do not be afraid to talk about the coronavirus with children. Providing opportunities to answer their questions in an open and age-appropriate way can help reduce any anxiety they may be experiencing. You can do this by:
- Speaking to them about coronavirus in a calm manner.
- Asking them what they already know about the virus so you can clarify any misunderstandings they may have.
- Letting them know that it is normal to experience some anxiety when new and stressful situations arise.
- Giving them a sense of control by explaining what they can do to stay safe (eg washing their hands regularly, stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing).
- Not overwhelming them with unnecessary information (e.g. death rates) as this can increase anxiety.
- Reassuring them that the coronavirus is less common and severe in children, compared to adults.
- Allowing regular contact (e.g. by phone) with people they may worry about, such as grandparents, to reassure them that they are okay.
Talk about how they are feeling:
Explain to your child that it is normal to feel worried about getting sick. Listen to your child’s concerns and reassure them that you are there to help them with whatever may arise in the future.
It is important to model calmness when discussing the coronavirus with children and not alarm them with any concerns you may have about it. Children will look to you for cues on how to manage their own worries so it is important to stay calm and manage your own anxieties before bringing up the subject with them and answering their questions.
Limit media exposure:
It is important to monitor children’s exposure to media reports about coronavirus, as frequent exposure can increase their level of fear and anxiety. Try to be with your child when they are watching, listening or reading the news so you are able to address any questions or concerns they may have.
As always, reach out for help and support if needed. Please use the links on the HILLCREST ConneX Website, contact the Hillcrest ‘Wellbeing Team’ or seek help from your GP.