Our children are already exposed to the news of coronavirus. But how should parents approach the topic with our young people?
“Will I get sick?”
“Will my school close?”
“Will grandma or granddad die?”
Children will ask these and many more difficult questions to understand what this coronoavirus is all about.
We keep hearing that it is the elderly who are most at risk with the virus. But that could mean their grandparents and other extended family members are affected. They will need reassurance.
There will be social media posts that go on and on about washing your hands. Yuk, yuk, yuk. When will we give the hand washing a break? We need to talk about the hand washing process.
And their friends will have stories and tales to recount in the playground. We need to prepare our young people for these discussions as well.
Schools closing – why? Toilet paper sold out? – why? People wearing face masks – why? And there is endless mention of virus and co virus and corona virus. Isn’t a virus a bad thing?
Pangolin are threatened with extinction and we are threatened with a pandemic? Are pangolin and pandemic similar. Older children may ask what is the difference between pandemic, endemic and epidemic, or they might ask what is a ‘demic’?
So what do we suggest that parents equip themselves with in preparation for these discussions.
- Be cool – be in control.
- Be confident with a straight forward answer to what the virus is.
- Be sure you know how to really wash those dirty hands.
- Be honest – no false statements.
- Know what we need to do -use clear chart or diagram.
- Use simple language – no baby talk.
- Stay away from technical jargon – just the good, the bad and the ugly approach.
Let’s expand on some of these approaches. Yes, we growing reading and hearing scary stories. But this story is both real and scary. And it might be too close to home if the school closes down and it is not school holiday. This is where a global perspective will help to distance the discussion initially. Where did it start? On this side of the globe. And where are we? On this other side of the globe. This virus can move and how can it move? Through people. And people move. Simple concepts, simple explanations.
What can we do to stop it? This is when you can have that hand washing talk. |Even show a video on how to wash your hands. Make it a time to smell the soaps, make bubbles, blow the bubbles. Turn the chore into a fun exercise. Explain that you as parents also have had to learn how to wash your hands better and for longer.
What about the masks? There are all sorts of masks. Do I have to wear a mask. That’s a good question to lead into no touching of the 3 T’s – 3 things – eyes, ears, and nose, and no putting into where? The mouth.
Perhaps we have to stay at home more, for longer, no going outside even, No friends coming over. No big family gatherings, and so on. Encourage your child to come up with reasons why we might do all these sorts of things? Learn what they have already heard and what they already understand.
Have a clear answer to the question – What is it?
“Covid-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus which seems to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. After about a week, it leads to shortness of breath and some patients require hospital treatment.”
“Medics aren’t sure exactly how it spreads from person to person, but similar viruses do so via droplets, such as those produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.”
Now give your child actions that they can do and complete with ease. Use a tissue to sneeze or wipe your nose. Explain how and where to dispose of the tissue is also important. Learn how to wash your hands and their hands together.
And of course, after you have this conversation, move on to something positive and non-threatening such as “Who won the soccer match?”, “How was your presentation in class?”
Even out up a reminder in the bathroom. Again, an activity you can do together. Put it at their eye level in the bathroom the children use. Put another in Mum and Dad’s bathroom at their eye level. Or if only one bathroom, place two notices at the different eye levels. Its only for the duration of the situation.
Reassure your children that young people are at low risk. For some younger ones you might need to explain what risk is. A good example is learning to ride a bike, there is an element of risk. But if you want to ride, you will have to take that risk and have some falls. But in the end, you will ride really well and fast and down steep hills and go on long rides.
And be sure to ask if your child has any worries about all this? Be up front, you do not know all the answers. No one has all the answers. We do not know when it will end. But if we follow the guidelines, it will finish sooner rather than later. Let them know that there are many people working on finding solutions to the present situation.
What will it be like? Yes, these young minds could ask you this too. You have had a cold before. It could be like that. You remember when you had a sore throat? It could be like that time. Remember when you or your sibling had a fever and they got very hot? It could be like that. So you could feel sore and uncomfortable for a time. But we know that children are least at risk.
And if they ask that next question, “What will happen to Grandpa then?” Be honest. He will be sore and uncomfortable too. He might get very ill. He already has problems with his breathing so it will affect him more.”
And then the question no one wants to answer. “Will he die?” We all will die someday. We hope it will not be his time to die. The doctors and nurses will do all they can to help him live.”
Speak with love, with care, with concern, and with much patience. There is no need to rush this conversation. Reassure and be positive. We are taking the basic steps that will protect us a lot. Reassure that Grandpa is strong, has a strong will to live. You know your child, you will know how much depth of insight to share or how little. But be real. Remember, simple, straight facts are easier to handle than complex detail.
Let the child ask questions if they need more details. No questions, then stop at that point. A child trusts his/her parent more than anyone. Be loving, be reassuring, but be factual and truthful. And use language simple and appropriate for the age of your child.
And as a parent, keep current with events and details and necessary action and precautions as advised in your community.