As time has passed since the crisis broke out and perhaps ideas and resources have started wearing out, I have been contacted by several of you and asked for advice. I have written down some of the most important things to keep track of when talking to your child about the virus and also some tips regarding home learning.
While the information is relevant for all parents, should you have limited time on your hands, I have divided the following text into explanations and recommendations for parents of primary school children and for parents of secondary school children.
How do we talk to children about the current situation?
1. It is recommended that children are told the truth about this situation, about the existence of a virus which is best to keep safe from.
When talking to children about it, avoid information which is irrelevant and hard to understand; statistics and especially information of an unsure nature such as “We don’t know how much longer this will last; We don’t know how it can be treated”. If the child asks a question to which the answer would be ”I/we/they don’t know”, I recommend that you change the perspective without changing the truth: “They are about to let us know how much longer this will last; Scientists are working on a vaccine right now.”, You will be delivering the same information, but without the anxiety that often comes spontaneously when things are uncertain.
2. If the child is already scared of this subject, I recommend changing the name of the virus to a friendlier one, such as Little Cov, Covey, Covizel, Covidut, etc.
It is important that this new name is close to the real name so that there are no differences between what the child hears from you and what they hear on TV. If they are particularly scared by it, have an art session with them – draw the virus, put a face on it, a hat, rollerskates, anything to change the child’s image of it.
3. It is recommended that the discussions about this subject are held in a calm manner and that the parent is sure of himself/herself and of what he/she is saying.
I suggest that this discussion is initiated by the parent who feels more comfortable with this subject because children will unconsciously notice any change in tone, volume of voice, posture or facial expression and they will know whether you are stressed about it or not. As you, the parent, are the absolute authority and all-knowing being in the child’s eyes, you being stressed may scare the child in return. When this discussion takes place, the parent needs to create a secure environment for the child through his/her attitude and behaviour – this occurs naturally and spontaneously when the parent is confident in himself and not afraid of the subject at hand!
4. Avoid using answers that are positive and very general, such as “It will be okay; everything will work out in the end” because these phrases do not offer any real emotional or cognitive comfort.
If a child asks something that is difficult for you to answer, be honest and say something along the lines of “I do not have an answer right now for you, but I will check things out and come back to you” or “Let’s find out together!”. If, however, you are emotionally overwhelmed by what the child is saying or asking, I invite you to write an email to me at email@example.com and we can thoroughly discuss about what you, as an adult and a parent, are going through right now.
5. Do not minimize the child’s efforts to better understand what is going on around him.
The more questions they ask, the more opportunities you have to teach them more, offer them different perspectives and cultivate their curiosity.
6. Offer security to your child by talking to him/her about different ways to keep safe from the virus.
In order to show him/her how important hand-washing and disinfecting is, I have attached a short experiment which you can try with your child in order to prove to them exactly how soap works.