Parents and teachers want to support children through the stressful times we are all going through right now. Here are six ideas from us to enable you to find the right note when you need to talk to children about what is going on.
Children may want extra time and attention from you. They are helped when they know they have people at home and at school who will listen to them and make time for them. You can use the 30s empathy strategy if children want to talk when you are busy.
Children will follow your reactions, so talk and move calmly and quietly. Remind them that adults are there to keep them safe. Information about how to prevent infection gives children a greater sense of control and reduces anxiety so talk to them about the healthy habits people use every day to stay healthy, such as washing their hands. Children may also find it reassuring to know that our bodies are amazing and find ways to stop viruses from making us unwell. It is also important to let children know that although sometimes a new bug can make a lot of people sick, these pandemics always come to an end.
When there is no factual information children, like adults, often imagine situations far worse than reality. Don't ignore their concerns but name their feelings and answer the questions they have. It is helpful to give accurate clear explanations of what the symptoms are, what they can do to avoiding getting sick and how other people can help them.
AVOID BLAMING Some children are worried because people they know blame certain groups for bringing the virus to Britain, or feel that certain groups are more likely to give it to others. Speak up if you hear discriminatory comments to stop bullying in its tracks. Children can be encouraged to consider how it feels to be targeted unfairly by association. It helps to emphasise positive, familiar images of diverse groups and to identify heroes of varying backgrounds who are involved in helping role.
Children may be worried that people close to them may get sick or even die. Provide information about what could happen in a reassuring way e.g. 'a family member or child could start feeling unwell and may need to go to hospital for some time so doctors can help them feel better.'
Limit access to information through social media. Don't watch upsetting stories in front of children, but do speak to them about how information in the news might be inaccurate. Instead, talk to children about factual information and then engage them in games or interesting activities.