Coronavirus: How and What to talk to your children

By Sanjay Kumar Ojha

The all-pervasive news of Coronavirus has created an atomosphere of negativity and dismay around us. The world over — including India, thousands of people have been infected with the pandemic, and this number is increasing everyday.

The current situation has thrown up challenges to the parents of their small kids. The parents are finding it difficult to assure their children of safety, allay their apprehensions and make them believe that all not is not bad.  

To start with, there is a need to educate your children about this crisis and make them aware of the dos and don’ts.

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Here is how and what you can talk to your children:

Assure kids, they are not that vulnerable: The good news is that this mysterious virus has spared children to a great extent. Only a few children worldwide — rare among children below 15 years of age — are reported to have been affected with Covid-19.  The parents should tell this to their kids loud and clear.

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“If any family member is affected with the Coronavirus, make the kids understand in a gentle way that the patient is being taken care of by family members as wells as doctors. So, all is well and the younger lot need not to worry,” says Monika Sharma, a practising Psychologist from Delhi.

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Do away with panic: As says Monika, Negativity makes the situation even worse as far as dealing with kids are concerned. The younger ones get impacted in their own way because they love to play outdoor games more than indoor games. Restricting them at home in a limited space, makes them sad and irritating.” Here it is a must for parents to put themselves into kids’ shoes and understand their situation.

                                                                   Monika Sharma, Psychologist, Delhi

“Negativity makes the situation even worse as far as dealing with kids are concerned. The younger ones get impacted in their own way… Restricting them at home in a limited space, makes them sad and irritating.”

“The kids with the age group of 4 – 7 are very small to understand the problems. They will mostly respond in accordance with how others in their family react to that situation. The reason is kids learn behaviour mostly by seeing others behavior in that particular situation,” she elaborates, adding, “It becomes very important for elders to be happy and stay calm to set an example before their younger lots.”

Keep calm. Keep talking: Being a parent, you have to be calm, composed and reasonable. You need to manage your emotions, which will help you listen to your child and also make them understand the facts.

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“Before speaking to your child, you must first ensure that you do not exhibit fear. Children tend to pick up on what we show them and starting with fear is not a good approach. Do away with all sorts of panic about the virus and clear your mind before speaking to your kids. Children turn to their parents/guardians for support and assurance, and it would be counterproductive if you are panicking or anxious,” opines Meenal Arora, Founder and Director, Shemford Group of Futuristic Schools.

                                 Meenal Arora, Founder & Director, Shemford Group of Futuristic Schools

“The adage – prevention is better than cure – was never more relevant than in this ongoing scenario. Creating awareness amongst your children and reassuring them will go a long way in not only erasing confusion and anxiety but will also help them know the facts and keep themselves safe.”  

Put yourself right: Make it a routine to wash your hands well after you return from home. Wear mask if you go outside. Hide your face with elbow while coughing or sneezing. “Not very big changes are required in daily routine. It should be like as it was before. Just a few additions, like avoiding going outdoors for playing and social distancing.” she suggests.

“More importantly, do your research before speaking to your children about the crisis because if you are unaware of the exact scenario, you will not be able to assure your child or clear their doubts and fears,” articulates Meenal.

Take cues from your children: “Trying to understand what your kid knows about the situation and analyzing their feelings will go a long way in having a seamless conversation with them. For those who have teenage kids, ask them what they know and how they feel about it. If you have younger children, try to make them understand the situation and be honest and clear while answering their questions,” adds Meenal. 

Avoid revealing too much information: It is important to only divulge the necessary amount of information and tell the kids what exactly they need to know. For example, speak to them about what it is, but in easy to understand terms. Then, tell them what they can do to be safe. Giving them too much information might lead to unnecessary confusion. Assure your child that you are available for them anytime and that they can speak to you without hesitation,” advises Meenal.

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Educate your children of dos and don’ts: Meenal elaborates, “The most important thing is to ensure that your children stay safe. Give them a alcohol-based hand sanitiser to carry, tell them to follow basic hygiene practices like regularly washing their hands with soap, covering their mouths and nose while coughing or sneezing and thoroughly cleansing their hands afterward. Also, tell them to maintain sufficient distance from anyone who appears to have a cold or cough.”

About the Author:

Sanjay Kumar Ojha is Deputy Editor at Medical News India.

(This write-up is based on the opinions shared by experts.)


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