Explaining the virus
A good place to start is finding out what they know. Ask them what their biggest worries are and give them a safe space to share them in. You can do this by acknowledging their fears and noticing the level of concern in their voice. Try to normalise what they’re feeling by telling them that everyone has worries, even grown-ups, so it’s ok.
To start this conversation, you could create a worry box together and encourage them to write down what they’re feeling and put this in the box. Take them out later and explore them together. Or, if your child struggles to express their emotions with words, you can use emoji cards, which you can find on the Me First hub.
Keep a close eye on them to see if anything about their behaviour or language is changing. With news, social media and overheard conversations, there’s noise coming from all around – children and young people sometimes find that hard to filter out.
It’s never a good idea to shield your child entirely from the world outside – better that they hear a balanced view from you rather than a scare story from someone else. As a parent, your role is to reassure your child that you will do everything in your power to keep them safe. Answer their questions honestly and if you don’t know the answer, say so and see if you can find out.
Base all conversations on facts
Using facts as the basis of your conversations is key. You can reassure them by making a plan, too. You could say something like: “lots of scientists and medical people like doctors and nurses are working hard to keep the bug contained – that means in a small space. But there are lots of things we can do to help them! Let’s make a plan.”
Making plans and doing active things can help children feel more in control. For example, you can talk about staying healthy, washing hands, and why those things are important. You could create a handwashing song or chart, do a poster competition or even make a handwashing bus stop.
To ease worries, you can also have conversations about how the virus makes most people feel unwell for a few days, like the flu. Watching family members, siblings and friends become poorly will have an impact. Again, you can use facts to offer comfort here. The best places to find facts about coronavirus are:
Explain why these changes are happening
Their concerns might not just be linked to the virus. It might be more about not being able to see friends or loved ones, even missing the routine of going to school. While in hospital, they may be concerned about unfamiliarity, like not being able to see the faces of the doctors or nurses they know well because they’re wearing masks. It’s important to reassure them that these are big changes, and there will be more coming, but that they’re for the best to slow down and stop the spread of the virus.
Build a picture they can understand
Use child-friendly activities to build a picture of what’s happening. You could write a poem together, or a song. Here are some helpful things we’ve found online:
- The Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) COVID-19 hub has lots of useful resources for children and young people, including creative activities from the GOSH Arts team.
- This booklet explaining the virus in an accessible way, from Mind Heart, is interactive and informative.
- This video, made by Playmobil, uses well-loved characters to explain the coronavirus.
- These information sheets from the International Play Association give parents and carers a chance to understand more about how their child plays and support how to balance internet and screen-based activities.
- This wellbeing hub, created for children by Nuffield Health, includes a fantastic journal activity.