Talking to Children about Coronavirus
Posted on 3rd April 2020 at 08:09
Have you ever heard the expression, “Little donkeys have big ears!”?
We’re not for a moment comparing children to donkeys but the same principle applies! Children pick up and hear far more than we give them credit for. They hear snippets of adult conversations and can hear the news blaring from television sets and radios. They spent their last couple of weeks at school learning to wash their hands to funny songs because of ‘the virus’. Put it this way, it would have been hard to shield them from any kind of knowledge of the Coronavirus.
We Can't Control Outside Events - But We Can Control What We Do
It’s not realistic to protect children from everything sad or frightening in life. What we can do is give them the right tools to deal with emotional pain and grief. Even when we can’t control outside events, we can control how we talk and listen to our children.
You’ll have to make a judgement about your children’s maturity and ability to understand without giving them nightmares and talk to them where they are at. However, tell the truth about your feelings and go first, which will then make it safe for your children to talk honestly, too.
Tell the truth about how you feel. It will make it safe for your child to do the same.
Recognise that grief is emotional, not intellectual. Feeling sad or scared are normal and natural.
Remember that every child has a unique perception about what they hear and believe about Coronavirus.
Explain your beliefs about COVID-19 clearly and openly to your children.
Be Patient. Give your child time to form their own opinions.
Listen with your heart, not your head. Allow children to share their emotions without judgment or criticism.
Don’t say "Don't feel scared." Fear is a normal and common response to scary situations.
Don’t say "Don't feel sad." Sadness is a healthy and normal reaction to the possibility of someone they know getting ill.
Don’t act strong for your children. It gives them the message that they must be strong too, which means they will hide their normal and natural feelings.
Don’t compare their lives or situations to others in the world. Comparison minimises their feelings.
Don’t make promises that you cannot keep. Instead of saying "Everything's going to be okay," say, "We'll do everything we can to be safe."
Try something like:
“I was frightened when I heard the news about Coronavirus. I was worried for our safety and I was sad for the people who have been affected.”
Remember, children are smart little cookies! They see and hear more than we think they do. Treat their feelings with the same respect and dignity that you want to receive.
If you’d like to read more, we have a great book called ‘When Children Grieve’. Order your copy here.
Another great resource for children - complete with illustrations by Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler - is available as a free eBook here.
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