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Coronavirus (Covid-19), infections, deaths, pandemics, canceled events, empty store shelves – it’s not just adults who are worried, but children too. It is important to talk to children about the coronavirus, listen, provide factual information and not convey their own concerns.
Many people are worried about the coronavirus’s progress and the intense media reporting and discussions about the virus around dinner tables and in schoolyards can also arouse feelings and thoughts in children.
You should assume that most children know that there is an infectious virus, that children share news in different ways, talk to each other and hear others talk.
Many parents are wondering if they should talk to their kids about the Coronavirus and if so, what should they say?
How to Talk to Your Child About the Coronavirus
1. Listen to your child and ask questions
Children as young as preschool age know that there is something called coronavirus. Some children may not care that much, while it may arouse much emotion in others. As an adult, it is important to be attentive and find out what the child feels and if it needs help to deal with his or her concerns and fears.
With younger children, you can often see in their eyes if they are worried about something but when it comes to older children, you’ll need to ask more concrete questions: “What do you know about the virus? Have you talked about it at school or with your friends?”
Find out how much the child thinks about the virus, what the child knows and what questions the child has. Question: What have you heard? What do you know? What are you wondering?
Show that you like to talk, even about things that may feel difficult, and even if you do not have answers to all the questions.
2. Provide factual information about the virus
Facts aren’t frightening. Accurate facts make your child feel secure and like they have control over the situation. Children need to get answers to their questions, feel control and calm.
Give your child relevant information. Children are especially concerned about things that may affect and threaten themselves, the family or other close people. Tell the child that the virus is contagious but that it doesn’t appear to be as dangerous for children as for the elderly; and that you should, therefore, avoid meeting grandparents if you feel ill.
For example, you can tell about how the virus is infected and that the virus does not seem to be as dangerous for children as for the elderly. For slightly larger children, it can be explained that the reason why the coronavirus becomes big news is that it can affect society in different ways.
Keep in mind that children have a harder time assessing what is being reported on the news than adults. Is it dangerous or does it just feel that way? Adults need to help children with this and not leave children alone or with each other trying to understand and assessing the information or they may feel that it is more dangerous than it really is.
3. Encourage questions
It is important that children are not left alone to speculate on things that may worry them. Encourage the child to ask and say it is okay to ask again.
4. Do not avoid talking about difficult things
What worries children most is that they themselves or someone in the family will suffer or even die. Talking about it is challenging for adults. But it is important not only to avoid and eliminate the issues.
Try to stand out, stay in the conversation for a while and be understanding that your child can have that kind of thoughts and feelings. But balance it out by not giving hope. “It’s no wonder you feel this way, many are worried, but at the same time most people are completely healthy”.
5. Give your child hope
Tell your child that when the media reports it is because something unusual happens. The spread of Corona gets a high news value especially because it impacts on society: the economy, canceled trips and events, closed schools and so on. Not just because it is dangerous to people.
You should also tell them that many people are working on finding out how to stop the infection, get a vaccine and take care of those who have become infected. You can also say that most of those infected become completely healthy.
It is important for the child to hear that adults take responsibility. Relieve your child by saying that you take responsibility for keeping up to date, that the child does not need to keep track of the development.
6. Don’t transfer your own concerns!
Keep in mind that what makes you worried doesn’t have to affect your child in the same way. If you are worried, you should avoid talking about it when the child is nearby.
It is important that you do not transfer your own concerns to your child or assume that the child perceives things in the same way as you. What is of concern to an adult need not necessarily affect a child in the same way.
If you feel uneasy, talk to another adult when your child is away.
Every child is different and how a child reacts to events like this is determined by several different things: the child’s age and how the child is feeling and has it in life otherwise right now. Past experiences also play a role, such as illness experiences.
For children who are already anxious and worried, the fear of the virus may be something that is added and may reinforce a feeling the child already has. Other children are not disturbed at all and don’t feel any concern.
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