Conversations about Coronavirus or COVID-19 are buzzing in every corner right from our living rooms on TV, the school corridors and in chats happening among children on the playground among as young as 8 or 9 years old and pre-teens and teens through social media.
On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also described the Coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic.
The parents are anxious, overwhelmed by the constant news feeds flowing in from various digital media. It is also understandable if your child is also fretful, concerned and asking questions about the disease or giving you information that is partially correct or sometimes misinformation.
Some parents are also reporting that the epidemic is taking a psychological toll on the children who are scared of what if, “I am infected and I will have to stay in the hospital for weeks without parents?”
Rishita narrated her daughter’s story about the scare of coronavirus while having a casual conversation during bedtime with her third-grade daughter, “my friend was holding my hand in the school during the break time and crying, she said I am scared of coronavirus.” With sad look Rishita’s daughter asked before bedtime, “can I also get infected.?
Others also asked
Will my school close?
Are my exams going to be postponed?
Am I going to be sick soon?
Are we all dying?
Will I stay alone in the hospital?
This made me realize Coronavirus may be going around as casual talk among adults with some concern but among children, there is a very different perspective, which is beyond physical torment and agony the patients of this disease are going through.
Young people get a lot of information directly and they absorb a huge amount of information passively as well, they might find it difficult to understand what they are watching on TV, seeing online and hearing from other people.
Children are particularly vulnerable to feelings of anxiety, sadness, and stress.
As parents, we will have to provide comfort, support to children but also have open discussions so that they are aware and cope with the circumstances.
It also calls for a very vital role of school staff and other trusted adults in helping children make sense of what they hear and see is honest and minimizes anxiety and fear. We have created a guide to help adults, school staff and parents have conversations with children about COVID 19. It will create awareness about ways they can avoid getting and spreading the disease.
Invite your child to talk about the issue
Start talking calmly, and find out how much they know about the COVID 19. Create a friendly environment to talk about it taking the lead from the conversations. Don’t try to minimize the concerns they have and most importantly do not avoid their concerns.
If your child has not heard about COVID19?
If your child is in the preschool or primary and hasn’t heard about the outbreak already, you may avoid talking about the issue. But you can always remind them about good hygiene practices without introducing new fear.
Pay full attention to your child
Make it obvious that you are listening by giving them full attention, leaving your mobile phones in particular. Make sure they feel at ease to talk t you whenever they like.
Provide honest & accurate information
You should provide information which is truthful and honest but keeping in mind the age level of the child.
Make them aware of fake news and rumors
It is a challenge for adults as well to identify fake from truth news and information, over that the sheer volume of material online and the speed at which it travels has made this increasingly challenging task. You must talk to your tweens and teens about how some stories on COVID-19 on the internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccurate information.
Don’t see troubling TV news & online streaming
Nowadays, watching TV news brings in a lot of troubling images and the news channels keep playing the same stories the entire day and night. It seems the world is shattering and there are crises all around us.
Children may not be able to differentiate between reality and what is playing on TV and online. These images may seem like an immediate danger to the child, that is why we see so much fear and stress among children today, and adults are no exception.
Avoid watching these in front of the children and try to keep the environment positive. Make them relax and as far as possible keep the normal schedule.
Reassurance is the key
A child should feel safe and comfortable discussing any issue. Your reassurance at this time can help the child in coping with the situation. Assure them that lots of people are working to keep them safe.
Answering the difficult question of Quarantine
“What if I am sick and I have to stay in the hospital?”
Many children know that COVID-19 is cured only in the hospital and they have to stay away from parents in the hospital. Making them aware of the process and having a discussion about their safety and also keeping others safe will bring a lot of reassurance to your child. Explain to them that they have to stay at home or hospital it will be safer for them and their friends. We (parents) will not leave and go we will be around. Telling them about how they will feel is also essential. Try explaining to them subtly that it will be a little hard to stay in the hospital but it will also keep everyone safe. There will be doctors and nurses who will take care of you.
Tell them stories of Compassion
Instill respect and kindness for scientists and health workers by telling them stories of their work for humanity. It is a big comfort to know some compassionate people are taking that extra effort so that all of us are safe.
Let’s Teach Children Everyday Actions to Protect Themselves
Explain children to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing
Remind them to cough or sneeze into their elbow.
Remind them to throw the used tissue in the closed bin
Get children into the handwashing habit.
Teach children to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds
When to wash hands: after blowing nose, coughing or sneezing; after using the bathroom, before eating, after playing
Incase, soap and water are not available; teach them to use hand sanitizer under adult supervision if the child is young.
What if I cant answer some of their questions?
If you can’t answer their questions, don’t guess. It is the best chance to explore the answers together. UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are great sources of information. It will also teach them how to break away from the misinformation chains and rumors that flood social media and WhatsApp in particular. Take the opportunity to explain them the trustworthiness of information and it’s best to trust the experts.
As you wrap up this conversation make sure you are not leaving them distressed. Close conversation with care and showing an earnest ear to children’s inquisitive minds is very crucial not just at times like these but every day.
Take care of yourself, keep calm and in control despite what you hear and see. Relax with Yoga and deep breathing excises, eat and sleep well.
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References: UNICEF.org, World Health Organisation (WHO)
More Information: Coronavirus Latest