If any of your children are worried or anxious about coronavirus, here’s some expert advice from children’s mental health charity YoungMinds on what you can do.
One or more of your children may understandably be concerned or worried by what they see, read or hear in the news or online regarding coronavirus (covid-19). As an early-years professional, it’s good to talk to them honestly but calmly about what is happening, and to not ignore or shield them from what is going on in the world. Children look to adults in their life for comfort when they are distressed and will take a lead on how to view things from you. Remember, you don’t have to have all the answers, but it is better to have a gentle conversation to reassure your children that they can talk to you so they don’t feel like they’re on their own.
You may need to gauge their level of understanding or interest to decide what level of detail you need to go into when explaining what is going on. It’s important to respond to their questions and concerns, so that anxieties don’t build up. You could start by asking them what they think is going on, if their friends are talking about it and what they are saying, and if they have any questions.
Starting a conversation can be difficult, especially if you’re worried that any of your children are having a hard time. Here are 10 top tips from YoungMinds’ Parents Helpline, which are equally practical for early-years settings.
1. Try not to shield children from the news. The amount of information on the internet about coronavirus can be overwhelming, so ask your children about what they’re seeing or hearing online and think together about reliable sources of information.
2. Talk to your children about what’s going on. Find out how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking about, let them know it is okay to feel scared or unsure, and reassure them that this will pass.
3. Try to answer their questions and reassure them in an age appropriate manner. Remember, you do not need to know all the answers, but talking can help them feel calm.
4. Reassure your children that it is unlikely they will get seriously ill, and if they do you feel ill you will look after them. Some might be concerned about who will look after you if you catch the virus. Let them know the kind of support you have as an adult so that they don’t feel they need to worry about you.
5. Give some practical tips to your children about how they can look after themselves. The obvious example is to show them how to wash their hands properly, and remind them when they should be doing it, but there are plenty of others
6. Keep as many regular routines as possible, so that your children feel safe and that things are stable.
7. Spend time doing positive activities with your children (such as reading, playing, painting or cooking) to help reassure them and reduce their anxiety. This is also a great way of providing a space for them to talk through their concerns, without having a ‘big chat’ Have a look at these conversation starters and activity ideas put together by Young Minds Parents Helpline.
8. Encourage your children to think about the things they can do to make them feel safer and less worried.
9. Be aware that your children may want more close contact with you at this time and feel anxious about separation. Even though social distancing is making this difficult, try to find ways to provide this support whenever possible.
10. Remember to look after yourself too. If you yourself are feeling worried, or anxious about coronavirus, talk to someone you trust who can listen and support you.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. For more valuable help and advice, go to www.youngminds.org.uk
Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm