How to explain COVID-19 to children

09 May 2020 By Michael Bowyer

​When it feels like the whole world is talking about the Coronavirus, your children might be hearing some conflicting and potentially frightening things about it. Even adults are finding it difficult to cope with the barrage of information about the virus, but children might find it particularly worrying, especially if they are worried about their mum or dad. As healthcare heroes you are in a great position to help your children find solid ground in understanding the virus and alleviate any fears or anxieties. We won’t pretend we know the perfect way to talk to your children about COVID-19, but these tips might help make the process smoother:

Check what they already know

By starting with what your children already know and building from there you will make the conversation a lot easier for them. This will be different according to age. Small children will know less about the global scale of the pandemic and will be easier to talk to, whereas older children – especially ones with smartphones – might have heard a lot of information and be confused about what to make of it.

Putting news stories in context will help your children recognise the interconnectedness of the situation rather than spark fear with every new development.

Be calm and reassuring

Particularly for younger or anxious children, a calm, reassuring tone will help them recognise the importance of your work, and the effectiveness of the safety measures that are in place to protect you. If your child is very scared for your wellbeing, show them pictures of you in your PPE, or show them how you put it on using online videos. Tell them some positive stories of patients who have recovered.

Be honest

Whilst young children don’t need to hear about the number of deaths happening in the UK everyday from the virus, they should know what your average shift looks like, what you do and how you help people. With older children you can be more open whilst also reassuring them about the level of PPE offered by your facility for you.

If you don’t know the answer to a question your child has, acknowledging it and trying to find out together will help your child not feel so out of their depths and find reassurance that lots of developments are happening every day – you can look at the research that’s underway for the vaccine!

Let them know it is ok to be scared

No amount of rationalising is going to stop your children from worrying about you whilst you care for other people with COVID-19 and risk your health. But letting them know it’s perfectly natural to feel scared and that you’re doing everything you can to minimise the risk of getting ill will help calm their nerves and sleep better at night. Let them know you want them to tell you when they are worried or scared.

Many children tend to see the dangers for friends and family more so than for themselves, so when they hear that the elderly are more at risk than their own age group, they might feel particularly worried about grandma or grandpa. Letting them facetime regularly will help them see that by following the same social distancing protocol as you have in your house, grandma and grandpa are doing just fine.

Don’t dwell on the sad things

It’s inevitable that your children will hear some of the heart-breaking news about the Coronavirus death toll, acknowledging it and showing them how this has decreased will help them see that there is light at the end of the tunnel and this won’t last forever. However, mitigating this sad news with a fun activity will help your children to not be sad for too long. Reinforce the fact that lots and lots of people recover and have the virus and have only mild symptoms.

We have tips for things to do with the children during COVID-19 to help you find ways to take their minds’ off the sad news and create beautiful artwork to hang in the window to encourage and thank other healthcare professionals for their hard work.

For those with young children

For those with young children, Manuela Molina at mindheart.kids has created this downloadable storybook to explain COVID-19.

If you need any extra help with finding the resources to have these conversations with your children, we would be happy to help. We can also help you source locum or clinician work in primary or acute care with appropriate PPE, we would be happy to talk to you about it!

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