Savvy Therapy

Children are very anxious about Covid 19 – find out how to talk to them about it

Having your children at home on holiday can be stressful enough. The
closure of the schools and stay-at-home instructions to combat the
coronavirus – COVID 19 – will place more pressure on families. Your
child may be anxious about life anyway; or may have observed and be
copying your general anxieties about life. The current pandemic will
heighten the tensions in a family and the children will be looking to
adults for their cues on how to respond and how to behave. One way of
dealing with your child’s concern is to talk to them and provide FACTS to
them to help their anxiety levels.

So, it may seem ridiculous but just how do you talk to an anxious child
about their concerns?

In conversations with children it is important to help them to:

  • Recognise that is understandable to feel worried or anxious;
  • Develop an accurate and realistic understanding of the situation;
  • Recognise simple, practical things that your child can do, but also to be clear about the limits of their responsibility.

Of course, this means that are the responsible adult, you must recognise
these things apply to you too. However, it is your responsibility to make
sure that your child is reassured with facts; and knows what to do to help
(hand washing for example).

1. Acknowledge your child’s questions and concerns

When you child mentions Coronavirus (or perhaps says something like –
is it true that…), respond with an open question such as ‘What makes
you say that? Or, ‘how do you feel about that? Or, ‘where did you hear
that?’.

If an older sibling is providing fake news from social media, ask them to
stop.
Do not minimise your child’s concerns by responding ‘Don’t worry or it
will be all right’.
Encourage your child to acknowledge their thoughts and feelings but not
to dwell on them.

2. Help them understand that their concerns are normal

If you child expresses worries about their grandparents or older adults around them, you can acknowledge this concern and suggest that your child phones them if possible.

Explain to your child that some trips and treats will have to be postponed but reassure them that you will offer an alternative when you are able to.

3. Gently correct any misunderstandings they have

If you child believes, for example, that everyone is going to die from the virus, you can acknowledge this but saying something like ‘I can see that you are upset but most people who get the virus get well again – just like you did when you had a stomach ache a couple of weeks ago.’   

Keep to the facts from reputable sources.

Reassure your child that pets are not affected.

BBC Newsround is a good source of information for children (http://www.bbc.co.uk/Newsround/)

4. Help your child to understand what they can do

Reassure your child that handwashing regularly – after the toilet, before meals and when they come in from outside – if the best thing they can do to keep safe.

5. Be clear about the limits of your child’s responsibility

Limit your child’s responsibility to hand washing, staying away from friends and older people and doing their school work.  Let your child know that the government, the health service, adults and other children are all working together to beat the virus.  Do not allow your child to feel that they are responsible for passing the virus on.

6. Focus on the good things going on

Encourage your child to focus on the good things in their life.  Also to focus on how the community is coming together to help each other.

7. Find ways to deal with worries

Have a timetable for daily activities and limit your child’s exposure to information about the virus (don’t leave the TV news on all the time).  Have a specific time every day when you and your child can view the news and talk about what comes up.  If there is an adult or other child who wants to talk about the virus all the time, ask them to talk about other things instead.

Have a daily worry time where your child tells you all their worries and you talk them through.  You should listen and empathise.  If your child worries outside of worry time, ask them to write down the worry or draw a picture of it for later.

8. Take practical steps

Encourage your child to take practical action such as texting, phoning, making cards or posters to send to relatives they cannot see in person for a while.

Read my fact sheets on the Coronavirus and children here: