By Felix Ogboko
The news of the corona-virus COVID-19 is everywhere, from all the television stations, the front page of all the papers to the playground at school. Many parents are wondering how to bring up the epidemic in a way that will be reassuring and not make their children more worried than they already may be. Here is some advice I will give to you from the experts.
First of all, don’t be afraid to discuss the corona-virus. Most children will have already heard about the virus (Coronavirus) or seen people wearing face masks, so parents shouldn’t avoid talking about it. Not talking about something can actually make children worry more. It is better to let them have a clear idea of what is going on. Look at the conversation as an opportunity to convey the facts and set the emotional tone. It is your responsibility to take on the news and filter it, then break it down to your children in the way they will understand it. Your goal should be to help your children feel informed about corona-virus and get fact-based information that is likely more reassuring than whatever they’re hearing from their friends or on the news.
You must be developmentally appropriate. Tell it to your child according to the level of the child. Don’t volunteer too much information, as this may be overwhelming. Instead, try to answer your child’s questions. Do your best to answer honestly and clearly. It is okay if you can’t answer everything; being available to your child is what matters.
Take your cues from your child. Invite your child to tell you anything they may have heard about the coronavirus, this will provide you with an understanding of where your child is in terms of the knowledge about coronavirus, and how they feel. Give them ample opportunity to ask questions. You want to be prepared to answer (but not prompt) questions. Your goal is to avoid encouraging frightening fantasies.
Deal with your own anxiety. In case you are feeling most anxious or panicked, that is not the time to talk to your children about what’s happening with the coronavirus. If you notice that you are feeling anxious, take some time to calm down before trying to have a conversation or answer your child’s questions. Anxiety most times is caused by the absence of the right information. You may need to go for more information before you talk to your child. With that, you will be very armed to deal with any question.
Be reassuring. Children are very egocentric, so hearing about the coronavirus on the news may be enough to make them seriously worry that they will catch it. It is helpful to reassure your child about how rare the coronavirus actually is (the flu is much more common) and that children actually seem to have milder symptoms.
Focus on what you are doing to stay safe – like washing hands with soap frequently in flowing water staying away from sick and coughing person, covering your mouth when sneezing and also ensure others around do the same and stay safe. An important way to reassure children is to emphasize the safety precautions that you are taking. It should be noted that children feel empowered when they know what to do to keep themselves safe. And of course, feel the opposite when the reverse is the case. We know that the coronavirus is transmitted mostly by coughing and touching surfaces. The Centre for Disease Control recommends thoroughly washing your hands as the primary means of staying healthy. So remind children that they are taking care of themselves by washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or the length of two “Happy Birthday” songs when they come in from outside before they eat, and after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing or using the bathroom. If children ask about face masks, explain that the health officials say they are not necessary for most people. If children see people wearing face masks, explain that those people are being extra cautious.
Stick to a routine. It is not good to be uncertain, so staying rooted in routines and predictability is going to be helpful right now. This is particularly important if your child’s school or daycare shuts down. Make sure you are taking care of the basics just like you would during a break or vacation. Structured days with regular mealtimes and bedtimes are an essential part of keeping children happy and healthy.
Keep talking meaningfully about coronavirus. Tell children that you will continue to keep them updated as you learn more. Let them know that the lines of communication are going to be open always. You may also want to say that even though we don’t have the answers to everything right now, know that once we know more, mom or dad will let you know, too.