Newspapers, news, TV, radio and their adults are all talking about it with images and reports everywhere they look. Separating fact and fiction is hard enough for adult, let alone our children.
Consequently, feeling like stress, anxiety and worry are likely to be heightened. Our advice, is to have open discussions with your children to help reduce potential distress. And this page is designed to equip you to do just that.
What is exactly is corona virus?
Scientific jargon to one side… Coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, is a virus that can cause symptoms such as fever, difficulty breathing and achey body pain, similar to flu.
How can I explain a virus we still don’t know much about?
COVID-19 appeared in China in December last year. Because it is so new in-depth knowledge is hard to come by and still unclear.
As with adults, uncertainty can cause feelings of anxiety for children so make sure you reassure your children that the worlds best scientists and dr’s are in the process of producing a vaccine, which is why in the meantime we need to whatever we can to prevent the spread.
There is no need to talk about the amount of deaths caused by coronavirus with your kids, but of course, children are often naturally curious and may want to know how many people have died. This should be in context that it is mainly elderly people or people with existing serious health conditions.
You can reassure your children that young people are far less likely to get the virus than grownups and so far, only 1 / 6 people become seriously ill. The people most at risk are elderly and those with existing serious medical conditions.
IMPORTANT: Remind your children that they can always ask you questions and share their thoughts and concerns with you.
What are the phases of prevention?
Containment Phase: confirming cases and tracing all contacts to avoid the spreading.
Delay Phase: delaying the spread & pushing peak infection towards the summer months.
Research Phase: intensifying research to find out more about the virus and actions to reduce its impact.
Mitigate Phase: Providing hospitals with resources needed to maintain their services as the disease spreads, and to help those who are ill in the community.
It can be confusing for a child as to why certain measures, such as schools closing, are taking place at varying times around the world. Compare the phases to steps a child would understand, for example a plant growing or a recipe to bake a cake.
Children understand that you pick a fruit when it’s ripe so try to explain that similarly, measures to tackle coronavirus must also be done at the right time.
Disruption to normal routines can cause feelings of being unsettled for children, so as the UK shifts from measure to measure to minimise the impact of COVID-19, try to keep those usual routines and a sense of regular structure as normal as possible.
What are the symptoms of corona virus?
The virus can have various syptoms, but as above, they are very similar to the flu. Symptoms can include: cough, fever (above 37ºC), body aches, sore throat, a runny nose and difficulty breathing (in severe cases).
How do you know if it’s just the flu or COVID-19 virus?
If you think you or your child has contracted Corona Virus, rather than go to the GP, hospital or pharmacy, you should contact the dedicated 111 NHS online coronavirus service. You will be told the right action to take.
How Contagious is corona virus & What are the forms of transmission?
Scientists are still conducting investigations into various forms of contagion. However, it is certain that it is highly contagious. The virus can be transmitted by air, physical contact and unhygienic surfaces.
- By air: saliva, phlegm and droplets from sneezing, coughing and speech
- By contact: kissing, handshakes and hugging
- Unhygienic surfaces: mobile phones, door handles, handrails, buttons, keyboards, public transport surfaces, public toilets
How to protect your children from the virus
Following the hygiene guidelines suggested by the experts is crucial:
- Prevention starts with hand washing. Encourage your children to wash their hands several times a day, especially if you have been out and about. Bring sanitiser out with you.
- Be a role model! Make sure your children see you washing your hands regularly.
- Rub your hands with soap and wash with warm water for at least 20 seconds (you could use a timer to help!)
- Avoid close contact with people who are unwell
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
- Catch your coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues, and if you do not have a tissue at hand, use your sleeve. Make sure to throw the tissue away after.
Make hygiene playful!
Encourage your children to wash their hands by rewarding them with a sticker each time they wash their hands. The cleaner they are, the more stickers earnt!
Encourage your children to wash their hands for the recommended time by helping your child make up a song that lasts for 2 0 seconds. You could use the tune of “Twinkle twinkle Little Star,” “Happy Birthday” or even a pop-song.
Explain that they can stop washing their hands once they have finished the song.
Test the Beet
Anyone who blow s their nose with a tissue should w ash their hands afterwards. But how do we explain the importance of this to little ones?
Try the technique, “Test The Beet” to prove the need to wash your hands after using a tissue.
Ask your child to pick up a pickled beetroot with a tissue. Your child’s hands will also turn red – which shows that liquid (and therefore the virus) easily reaches your hands even when using a tissue
Knowledge is key to protection
One of the most important things to do is to remain calm and rational. Remember that knowledge is the first step to protecting yourself in any situation. Immediately sharing sensationalist information with your children generates panic and confusion and it’s important to remember that children often pick up conversations that you think they’re not listening to!
Children have the right to know about what is happening in the world, but parents equally have the responsibility to manage unnecessary fear. Talk about what is going on in the world from reliable sources in a friendly, simplified and open manner.
Keep a familiar routine
With such easy access to reports, statistics and images, it’s easy to feel like we are surrounded by impending doom. Keep your home environment stress-free by scheduling time for fun activities and avoiding over exposure to the news.
Children are calmed by a sense of familiarity, so try to stick to a regular routine and set times.
Encourage your children to have the right attitude
Children often reflect the attitude of they see from their parents, and therefore it’s your responsibility to transfer a calm and understanding attitude to your children. Remind your child that it is not worth being upset, teasing others or engaging in disrespectful behaviour when talking about COVID-19.
Keep in touch with your elderly relatives
One of the biggest asks in the coming weeks could be the self-isolation of elderly people, which for a lot of children will mean not seeing their grandparents or elderly relatives.
Keeping communication channels open between your family and their grandparents is still achievable and very important to avoid feelings of isolation. We are incredibly lucky to live in a world in which technology brings us together. Tools such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Hangouts, Skype, Facetime amongst m any more will help keep family ties together.
(It’s worth noting that you may have to show your elderly relative how to access some of that technology in order for them to be able to use it.)
If you have elderly relatives who are self-isolating, schedule in time for them to chat to the family. Invite them to dinner via video call or ask them to read a story over the phone. Make it fun and lighthearted so both the grandparents and children benefit.
How to deal with a situation in which schools close
Whilst a lot of children will be excited at the prospect of no school, for parents, the idea of children at home for a prolonged period of time can present some difficult challenges to overcome; none less than how they manage work & childcare.
How do I keep a routine?
Will my children miss out on education?
How will I keep them entertained?
Parents will be asking themselves these kinds of questions and many more.
If it comes to it and schools are closed, it is key to ensure you try to stick to a set routine. This means getting up and starting your day around the same time you normally would on a weekday, as well as keeping lunch, dinner and bedtimes familiar to the school week.
We’ve suggested the following example routine below that might help should schools close:
Sticking to a routine like this might also help parents will also be able to get on with work from home.
Try and fit in fun activities: baking, colouring, theatre, singing or dancing. All these activities will help distract children from potential worry or fear surrounding the virus.
Make sure to keep the news off as much as you can during the day, particularly around your children. The best advice we can give is to keep you and your family up to date with what is happening in the world in a controlled and calm manner.
Try also to keep your days varied; schedule in one structured activity a day but also schedule some time for planned spontaneity – schools call this ‘choosing time’.
It’s impossible to entertain your children 24/7 so anticipate your children to complain about being bored. Remember that ultimately, if your children are entertaining themselves, they are learning essential skills such as being autonomous and creative!