There is a lot of scary news out there at the moment about Coronavirus. So we’ve decided to look into the best ways to go about explaining it to children, from watching online videos to singing songs whilst washing hands.
Have an open, honest chat
Many children up and down the country will be feeling anxious following the closure of their schools due to COVID-19. It’s an issue that is constantly popping up on the news and is changing the face of politics on a daily basis. So it’s important to keep the conversation going with kids, in case they’ve heard something on the news that has troubled them. Or they might have some unanswered questions and they will be missing their friends.
Let them know that it is ok to feel worried. But also offer reassurance that they are safe and being protected. The virus will eventually go away. Although it might be tempting to hide things in the news from children, the Mental Health Foundation says it is better to answer their questions honestly. Otherwise, their imaginations could run wild and fill in the blanks, making them more anxious.
Remember to keep your tone of voice light and calm, as they can pick up on stress. And after your chat, move on to a fun distraction, like a game or physical activity, so they don’t dwell on it.
Give kids a sense of control
We can reassure kids in simple terms that there are small things they can do to gain a sense of control over the situation, so they aren’t overwhelmed by the news. For example, washing hands regularly for 20 seconds, using tissues to catch sneezes and not touching their face.
This should make them feel more proactive about the situation. And it will give them tools to prevent the spread of germs. For more information on this, please visit the NHS website.
Use age-appropriate information
Consider limiting their exposure to the news they see on the television and through social media, which could be scaremongering and aimed at an adult audience. And instead, focus on child-friendly news programmes like BBC Newsround, which explain things in more straightforward terms.
Use online videos and books
There are various online resources available to explain what the coronavirus is to kids. For example, Molly Watts, an intensive care nurse at Southampton Children’s Hospital has penned a free children’s book called ‘Dave the Dog is worried about coronavirus’.
She says: ‘Big changes to children's routines and lots of stories on the news can make it a really scary time’. She adds: ‘I've had lots of people tell me that their children were really anxious and didn't understand what exactly was going on but that reading the story had helped them feel better’.
Brainpop is another useful tool, as it not only has a cartoon video explaining what coronavirus is, the website also includes worksheets and a quiz for older children.
Make good hygiene fun
As well as talking about good hygiene, it can be more fun to physically show kids how to wash their hands properly by using the following methods.
Some mums are following the ‘pepper and glitter’ method, where you pour pepper into a bowl of water and ask children to dip their hands in. The bits that stick to their hands represent germs. This demonstrates how hard they need to wash their hands to make them clean.
Glitter can also be used to represent germs in a different way. If you ask your children to cover their hands in glitter and then walk around the house, they will see a trail of glitter wherever they go. This will show them how easily germs are spread on different surfaces.
If you’re struggling to get your little one to wash their hands for the full recommended 20 seconds, you could encourage them to sing a song whilst they do it, like this one on YouTube.
Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.