We are uncertain, we are worried, we are anxious, and we are struggling to cope with the new restrictions. But talking helps!
Imagine how your children feel. From one day to the next, there is no school, but also no friends, no playgrounds, and adults seem more stressed. They need someone to talk to them, at their level.
Discussing difficult topics is never easy, so here are some tips on how to address the current situation with your children.
Talking about Coronavirus
The most important thing is to talk about it. Your children will have heard things and seen people wearing masks. Trying to hide it will make them worry more.
Depending on the age, you will give more or less detail, but let your child guide you. Let them tell you about what they have noticed and how it makes them feel before explaining things.
Make sure you yourself are calm when you speak to them. If you just read worrying news, take a moment to deal with your own feelings before sitting down to chat with them.
You can explain that it is a little like a cold or a flu and that most people who catch it stay home and rest. Also explain that it is a new kind of illness and that we have to be very careful, but you should also make sure to explain that people are trying hard to find ways to keep us safe and healthy.
Children need to feel empowered, so instead of talking about a dangerous virus, focus on what they can do to protect themselves. Give them tools such as handwashing to make them feel strong against it.
You can also explain that people wearing face masks are just being a little bit more cautious.
If you want to explain how germs work, check for a fun video on Netflix or YouTube to make sure they understand. Sesame Street and similar have a range of videos about germs, coughs, hand-washing and other tips to stay healthy (maybe this will get them to eat their veg?).
We particularly like this video from Tom Fletcher (from McFly) but you may have seen other videos you prefer.
Explaining the importance of hand washing
Spend some time explaining how washing hands can keep you safe from the virus (and bacteria and viruses in general, as they will have learnt in school). Choose a few songs to wash hands with and practice together. Happy Birthday works, but now is also a good time to teach them about the great 90s music scene in 20 second increments! We want to hear voices and laughter in the house.
While hand sanitiser is an option, try and prioritise hand washing when possible as hand sanitiser needs to dry before it’s completely effective and children may not have the patience to wait, touching toys and doorknobs or their face straight away.
Why schools are closed and parents are working from home
Closing the schools is unusual, so your children will know something is going on. It is important to try and frame it as positively as you can.
Say that there are many germs at school (choose the wording and amount of detail according to your child’s age and previous knowledge) and that you are going to stay home to stay safe so they can clean the schools. Then focus on the fact that you will have more time together and let your child (or children) make a list of what they would like to do together.
Why we can’t see friends (and what we can do)
You can start with something like “Have you noticed that children in your school often get ill at the same time? For example, in winter when we all have a stuffy nose? That’s because germs like to travel from one person to another…”
This is why we have to try and stay home so the germs can’t go to new people. And then the doctors have time to make the people in hospitals better. (If your child isn’t aware of how severe cases are, there is no need to introduce hospitals in the conversation. This is where letting your child tell you what they know or heard is crucial.)
Explain that for a little while everyone is going to play in their house or garden so the germs don’t go on the playgrounds or our friend’s toys.
Again, let them feel in control and give them a way to get in touch: call their grandparents and use video if possible, call a friend, make a present for them (to be delivered later), even let them watch the same film at the same time, or write a letter to them.
Why it’s important to talk
Most importantly, let your child know it’s always ok to come and ask you questions or speak about how they are feeling, and that feeling sad or scared is ok.
They will feel sad or angry about missing their friends, birthday parties, wanting to go out to the park or even seeing their grandparents, especially as Easter is approaching. So make sure they know those feeling are ok.
We’d love to hear from you. How have your children been taking the initial news that they’re not going to school for the foreseeable future?