Mia is at an age where she has so many questions, and is so knowing about the world and what goes on. She’s mature beyond her years, which usually provides her with heaps of confidence and self-assurance, however, her maturity means that she can’t be easily swayed with simple explanations in the same way that Theo is. There is no avoiding the news at the moment, we are all aware of the recent global virus outbreak, so when Mia came home from school last week wanting to know more, I realised I needed to discuss Coronavirus with her before she started to worry.
It turns out it’s harder than you think to talk to kids about Coronavirus, and as it’s something we are all thinking and talking about at the moment I thought I’d share how I tackled the topic and tell you how you can too.
Firstly, and most importantly, you need to reassure your child/children. Children have vivid imaginations, so it’s important to calmly reassure them and provide some context. If, like us, you live in the UK, you’ll know that the virus is currently affecting a small percentage of citizens here in comparison to other countries such as Italy and China. I showed Mia an image of a global map on my phone and reassured her of the distance between us and the places most affected.
How your conversation progresses depends entirely on how much your child/children knows. Keep the conversation light-hearted until you know exactly what they know. They may know the name of the virus and nothing else, they may have seen a snippet of the news and as a result, have questions.
Let them initiate the conversation, ask them what they know and how they feel about it all before you delve into any deeper discussion. Mia was quite matter of fact, as always, and told me she’d heard about it from a friend. She said all she knew was that lots of people had it and it can kill you. Once I was armed with the knowledge of what she knew, I knew what direction to take the conversation and reassured her that although lots of people are poorly, there are also thousands of people working hard to make the poorly people feel better.
The thought of talking to kids about Coronavirus may seem terrifying, but once you dissect it all and simplify the facts, it’s the same as talking to them about more common worries. My conversation with Mia was short, but effective. It wasn’t a big deal, just me and her, sat on the sofa like any other day, discussing a topic that needed discussing. Try not to let the thought of discussing something prominent scare you, and make sure you don’t project any of your fears onto your children.
If they ask about symptoms, give them a brief outline of the most common symptoms and reiterate the importance of basic hygiene, hand-washing, disposing of used tissues etc. They may see images of people wearing face-masks and hazard suits on the TV or in the papers and think all sorts. When Mia questioned the protective clothing I told her that although those items were necessary in certain parts of the world at the moment, as a country we do not need to take such measures. I also promised her that if I felt she needed to know of any developments, I would tell her, she didn’t like the thought of not knowing. Kids are stronger than we give them credit for and actually, knowing the facts is better than not knowing anything for sure and making their own conclusions on it all.
We don’t know what the next few weeks or months will involve, but, if we know how best to talk to kids about Coronavirus, we know that whatever happens, they will have an understanding of it all. With our reassurance, they won’t let their imaginations run away with them and the importance of personal hygiene will be magnified. I may sound like a cliche when I say this but, children are the future, so as parents we need to protect and educate to the best of our abilities.
My short but insightful chat with Mia stopped her asking questions and wondering. It put her mind at rest and armed her with the small but necessary information she needed. If your child/children have questions, follow the advice above and hopefully you’ll find the discussion as easy as we did.
Click here to read advisory info for the public from the World Health Organisation.