Talking to your chils

How to talk to your child about what’s happening

No matter how calmly you manage the current environment, children are likely to be anxious, so it’s important to talk to them about what’s happening.
 
The government has produced guidance for Parents and Carers, which can be found here.

For younger children

Children pick up bits of information from their friends, from the news and from listening to adults talking around them – but they can misunderstand what they’re hearing.

  1.  Deal with the news head-on and talk about it openly and calmly, giving them the facts

    • Give them age-appropriate information – take a look at:

    • Teach them how to know if information they find on the internet is reliable. Explain how some stories on social media may be based on rumours or inaccurate information

    • Encourage them to take breaks from listening to or reading the news – overexposure isn't helpful

  1. Encourage questions

    • This will give them the confidence to reach out, if they have anything to ask

    • Be reassuring but honest when answering questions – it's ok if you don't have all the answers

    • Be ready to answer the same question over and over – children tend to repeat themselves when they're feeling uncertain or worried, so you might have to answer the same questions more than once as they seek extra reassurance

  1. Be a role model

    • Recognise and manage your own worries first

    • Be open about your own feelings and let them know it’s normal to be concerned – for example, let them know you’re also finding the news a bit worrying and what you’re doing to stay calm

  1. Explain how our body's immune system protects us

    • It's constantly working against germs without us knowing. We can't and don't need to control this process

    • Explain that we're taking precautions against this particular germ because it's a new one which our bodies haven't come across before

    • Remind them how important it is that they eat healthy food, sleep and exercise, as this helps to fight germs

    • If it helps, reassure them that the effects of this virus on healthy young people are very mild

  1. Keep doing your bit to help children reduce the spread of germs

    • Remind them to maintain good hygiene like bathing daily and wearing fresh clothes

    • Encourage them to sing 'happy birthday' twice when they're washing their hands.

For older children

Older children will have the same anxieties about their own health and that of their family and friends as younger children. But they’re also likely to feel socially isolated, and worried about the result of school closures on their education and what life will be like after the pandemic is over.

In addition to the steps above:

  1. Reassure them that when more guidance comes from the school about how grades will be awarded, you’ll share this with them as soon as you have it – you could also check that they understand the information you’ve received so far, in case there are any points of confusion or worry that the school could help to clarify Adapt this if necessary, in line with how much information you’ve been able to provide to pupils and parents up to this point

  2. Encourage them to maintain social ties – relationships are especially important for older children, so give them room to keep in touch with their friends

  3. Equip them with accurate information – for example:

  1. Share tools to help them manage anxiety

 

If your child struggles with higher levels of anxiety 

Some children are naturally more anxious, such as those with existing phobias or obsessive-compulsive disorders. The current situation can make those anxieties worse.

  1. Get them to do activities such as counting, ordering and sorting tasks which can help them calm down

  2. Encourage them to use relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing

  3. Look out for obsessive or compulsive behaviours and try to get ahead of them early by challenging unhelpful thoughts and assumptions

  4. If you’re worried about your child’s anxiety, YoungMinds is a charity dedicated to children’s mental health. They’ve opened a parents’ helpline for confidential, expert advice. You can reach them at 0808 802 5544