Talking with children about public health emergencies like coronavirus
We don’t know where our children are getting information about Coronavirus and it could lead to them being fearful for their safety. It’s important to talk to our children about coronavirus and the risks but ensure the conversation is age-appropriate.
When a public health emergency, like coronavirus (COVID-19), hits the news channels and starts to invade our social media feeds, it becomes a major topic of conversation. Often the more we talk about an issue and therefore spend time attending to it, the more anxious we become. Children are not immune from directly or indirectly picking up on this worry and anxiety. Because of this, it’s important we talk to our children about coronavirus to provide them with accurate information if necessary. As well as to help them manage any fears or anxieties that come up. But having these types of conversations with our children can be challenging, particularly if we are unaware of the information or misinformation they’ve already been given. So, here are some tips on how to talk to children about public health emergencies.
Tips on How to Talk to Children about Coronavirus
First, it’s important to ensure the conversations are age-appropriate. The types of frank conversations we can have with high school and university-aged children are not the same as the conversations we’d have with those pre-school or elementary-aged.
When it comes to younger children, don’t overshare and burden them with information or worries. But do answer the questions they ask. Be honest but conscious of age and learning level (the same way you might with answering questions about where babies come from).
Children are curious and want to learn about the world around them so they are bound to ask questions. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you will find out. Or depending on the nature of the question and the age of the child consider researching the answer together. Even though children are curious, feeling secure and safe is important to their psychological well-being. Be honest but always attempt to reassure them of their safety.
Finally, help educate children about their health and how to be conscious of staying healthy and preventing diseases. Identifying actionable things we can do individually to keep ourselves safe and healthy can help all of us manage anxiety, fear, and helplessness. This is also true for children regardless of whether or not they are able to accurately identify these emotions. Make sure these things are; a) something that is within their control, b) something they can do on their own or mostly on their own, c) realistic and attainable.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.