Tips for Talking With Children About Coronavirus
As the number of coronavirus cases rise across Australia, the level of anxiety within the community is increasing.
Feelings of worry and unease can be expected following a stressful event, such as the recent declaration of a global pandemic, however, it is important that we learn to manage our stress before it turns to more severe anxiety and panic.
This information sheet outlines some useful strategies which can help children cope with the stress or anxiety experienced as a result of the coronavirusoutbreak.
Tips for talking with children about the coronavirus
Children will inevitably pick up on the concerns and anxiety of others, whether this be through listening and observing what is happening at home or at school. It is important that they can speak to you about their own concerns.
Answer their questions
Do not be afraid to talk about the coronavirus with children. Given the extensive media coverage and the increasing number of people wearing face masks in public, it is not surprising that some children are already aware of the virus.
Providing opportunities to answer their questions in an honest and age-appropriate way can help reduce any anxiety they may be experiencing.
You can do this by:
- Speaking to them about coronavirus in a calm manner
- Asking them what they already know about the virus so you can clarify any misunderstandings they may have
- Letting them know that it is normal to experience some anxiety when new and stressful situations arise
- Giving them a sense of control by explaining what they can do to stay safe (e.g., wash their hands regularly, stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing)
- Not overwhelming them with unnecessary information (e.g. death rates) as this can increase their anxiety
- Reassure them that coronavirus is less common and severe in children compared to adults
- Allowing regular contact (e.g., by phone) with people they may worry about, such as grandparents, to reassure them that they are okay.
Talk about how they are feeling
Explain to your child that it is normal to feel worried about getting sick. Listen to your child’s concerns and reassure them that you are there to help them with whatever may arise in the future. It is important to model calmness when discussing the coronavirus with children and not alarm them with any concerns you may have about it. Children will look to you for cues on how to manage their own worries so it is important to stay calm and manage your own anxieties before bringing up the subject with them and answering their questions.
Limit media exposure
It is important to monitor children’s exposure to media reports about the coronavirus as frequent exposure can increase their level of fear and anxiety. Try to be with your child when they are watching, listening or reading the news so you are able to address any questions or concerns they may have.
Find out the facts
It’s important to get accurate information from credible sources such as those listed below. This will also help you maintain perspective and feel more in control.
- Queensland Health - Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Australian Government coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert
- Health Direct – Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- smartraveller.gov.au – travel information for Australian citizens
- World Health Organization – coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
Need some help?
If you feel that the stress or anxiety you or your child experience as a result of the coronavirus is impacting on everyday life you can:
- Contact your GP for a referral to a counselling service or psychologist
- Ring Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Ring BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636
- Check out BeyondBlue's ideas on how to look after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak
Information courtesy The Australian Psychological Society Limited