It is important to talk openly to children and reassure them about the changes they are seeing around them due to Coronavirus. Following the announcement of school closures, foster children may worry about themselves, their family, and friends getting ill with COVID-19.
Children in care are particularly sensitive to uncertainty and any changes to their routine. Many children in care have experienced trauma and attachment issues and may be especially vulnerable at this time. Parents, family members, and other trusted adults play an important role in helping children make sense of what they hear in a way that is honest and accurate, and that minimises anxiety or fear.
General Principals For Talking To Children
Remain calm and be reassuring.
Remember that children will react to both what you say and how you say it. They will pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others. Try to manage your own worries: uncertainty can make all of us feel anxious or worried. Identify other adults you can talk to about your own worries. Use techniques that help to make you feel a bit calmer - if you are at home, music, breathing and relaxation techniques, distraction (such as watching something funny), and time with family can all help.
Make yourself available to listen and to talk.
Make time to talk. Be sure children know they can come to you when they have questions. It is natural that children will have questions and worries about COVID-19. Giving them the space to ask these questions and have answers is a good way to ease anxiety. Remember, it is okay to say that you “don’t know”. At the moment, there are questions about COVID-19 that we don’t yet have answers to, but scientists are researching and making breakthroughs every day.
“It is natural that children will have questions and worries about COVID-19. Giving them the space to ask these questions and have answers is a good way to ease anxiety.”
Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma.
Remember that viruses can make anyone ill, regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity. Avoid making assumptions about who might have COVID-19.
Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online.
Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety. Talk to children about how some stories on the Internet and social media may be based on rumours and inaccurate information.
Provide information that is honest and accurate.
It is important to be truthful, but remember your child’s age. Give them factual information, but adjust the amount and detail to fit their age. Younger children might understand a cartoon or picture better than an explanation. Maybe your child has an idea too- let them tell you or draw it.
The downloadable Nurse Dotty book Dave The Dog Is Worried About Coronavirus is a fantastic way to explain what coronavirus is to younger, primary aged children and will provide much needed reassurance.
Julia Samuel (MBE), a bestselling author, features on the latest episode of the Motherkind podcast and shares some brilliant tips and ideas around how to talk to our children about what’s going on right now.
The NSPCC have also published a list of books which are good for children who may be worried or anxious.
Talk about the good hand washing habits and social distancing that will keep everyone healthy.
Teach them to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. If soap and water are not available, teach them to use hand sanitiser. Hand sanitiser should contain at least 60% alcohol. Always supervise young children when they use hand sanitiser.
Remind children of the need for, and the importance of, social distancing and why it is important to self isolate if anyone in the household is showing symptoms of the virus.
For the latest information and health advice regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19), please visit the NHS website.
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