How to talk to children about coronavirus

Talking to children about difficult subjects is always hard; as adults we know much more than they do, and we worry about making them anxious.

Sometimes this stops us talking directly to children and this can make them even more anxious. It’s always better to have a conversation about a confusing subject with a child than to try and ignore it.  Here are some top tips and some resources to help you.

  • With young children get down to their level so they can see your face while you are talking
  • Use language which they can understand; don’t use words that mean something else as it’s easy for them to get confused
  • Only answer the question they have asked – don’t go into lengthy or detailed explanations
  • If they ask, give simple explanations of why we need to do things; e.g. “The virus likes to travel and jump between people’s hands; that’s why we need to stay home for a while and wash our hands often”
  • Try and use examples and comparisons that are familiar e.g. “It’s like when you were ill last year and had to stay off school”; “It’s a virus like a cold or the flu”
  • Pictures and social stories may help – we have some examples here you can use
  • Add an element of fun where you can – try singing a favourite song while washing your hands together for 20 seconds
  • Stick to routine as much as possible; children feel safe when they know what is going to happen next and when things are predictable for them. Try to have a structure that you stick to each day with regular mealtimes and bedtimes
  • Be aware of how much information your child is getting from the media – consider limiting or monitoring their TV/radio/internet time as too much information on one topic can make them more anxious
  • Try to avoid having conversations in front of children when they are not included; overhearing things and seeing how concerned you are will worry them
  • If they are worried, reassure them that most people get better and that people aren’t unwell for long
  • Do get your information from reliable sources such as Government websites, the NHS or the BBC



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