China is going through a hard time with widespread uncertainty. The novel coronavirus has presented a severe setback for the whole country; for those affected by the virus, their families, and for the general population.
The coronavirus situation has affected every member of our WISS community in some way. For many of us, it is the first time we have experienced such circumstances, and many of us feel uncertain and confused.
It’s hard for adults to understand what is happening, to process all the information, and to adjust our habits and routines. Now try to imagine how difficult it can be for children who have their routine altered. Not being able to attend classes for a long time, not seeing teachers or friends, and the lack of outdoor leisure activities can make them feel lost and disoriented.
In this new scenario where preventing the spread of the virus is the absolute priority, it has been recommended to avoid leaving the house. Moreover, all schools in Shanghai will remain closed until at least the end of February. This has resulted in many children being stuck at home, with their parents or relatives whose daily routine has also changed.
Given this new situation it seems logical to mention to our children that something is happening, but how do we do that? How do we convey the reality without alarming them?
Before talking to them, you should consider a few things:
- Consider the age of your child: it’s not the same talking to a 5-year-old as it is to a 12-year-old. Each child, depending on their age, is going to process the information in their own way.
- Consider the moment you choose to have this discussion: both sides have to be prepared to speak. If your little one is not comfortable, wait until they feel like doing it. The communication will be more relaxed, and they will be more receptive to listening.
- Consider who should talk to them: sometimes it’s mom, dad, the grandparents. Even a friend of the family can be the right person to deal with these delicate issues.
Each family is different; therefore, each one has their own way of explaining what is happening to their children. In these unusual circumstances which are new to many of us, some parents may feel unsure when facing the situation.
Here is some guidance that can help you when talking to your child about coronavirus.
4 Tips on How to Talk Children About Coronavirus
1. Keep calm.
Remember that children are great observers. They tend to imitate observed behavior and are influenced by it. It is vital to always convey a feeling of serenity and tranquility. Keep in mind that alarming headlines, rumors, or even fake news may come through. Don’t expose children to media that is inappropriate for their age and use reassuring words and gestures to help them feel safe.
2. Highlight the importance of hygiene measures.
Explain to your children how important it is to maintain hygiene such as washing hands frequently, using disposable handkerchiefs, and wearing a surgical or N95 antiviral mask when in crowded public places, etc. Then, practice these behaviors together as a family at home.
3. Stay positive.
In the words of Mr. Rogers, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.” It is good that you share with your children all the efforts that are being taken and what has been achieved to fight the virus. The work that doctors and scientists are doing to cure the people who are sick and to develop a drug to protect us from the virus.
4. Listen to your children and respond to their questions.
Children question everything, and they might come up with some difficult questions. It is important that you listen to them. It’s okay to admit when you don’t know something. Use trustworthy sources like the World Health Organization to find information and encourage older children to think critically about things that they may hear.
One of the hardest parts about being a parent is talking to your kids about difficult topics. We hope that these tips help.
To find out more about the novel coronavirus and the preventive measures against the virus watch this video made by the World Health Organization or visit their website. For health updates in Chinese and English visit the Shanghai City Disease Prevention and Control Information Platform.