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We are Engage• 3 Min read

23rd March 2020

COVID – 19 – Talking About Coronavirus with Children

As the government announces further measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic, it will become increasingly difficult to shield children and young people from the tidal wave of information coming from all sources. Social media updates and news items talking about pandemics, deaths or food shortages could be confusing or shocking for children and as a teacher or support worker in schools, it’s vital to ensure that information is transmitted to young people in a considerate and truthful way. All adults involved in the care of children have a responsibility to protect younger members of the population from fear, stress and worry.

Here at Engage, we are committed to ensuring the wellbeing of school staff and students under their care. We’ve provided some ideas below on how to manage potentially difficult conversations with students and younger children and some practical ideas to help mitigate risk within education settings.

EMOTIONAL

Keep Up To Date – Follow several trustworthy news sources. Think about your classes age group, as a key worker in this situation, it is important to filter the news to be relevant and suitable for the ages of the children you work with.
Open a discussion – Start by asking open-ended questions. What do they know about the outbreak already? How do they feel about the situation? Do they have specific concerns?
Offer Fact, Not Fiction – It’s imperative that conversations with children surrounding the virus and what may happen over the coming months are based on fact and knowledge. Gather information from government sources before starting discussions.
Avoid Fearmongering – It’s vital not to introduce new fears that could fuel frightening fantasies in children with a propensity for anxiety or nightmares. Offer as much reassurance as you can whilst being truthful. With younger children it may be enough to go over hand hygiene practises and remind them that touching their face could spread germs.
Don’t minimize – It may be hard to strike the correct balance at first, but it is also very important not to downplay or minimize the severity of the situation. It’s vital that children know how to play their part in protecting themselves and their families and this means they need to be aware how important it is to keep their hands clean and away from their face.

There’s a huge amount of false and potentially damaging information on the internet at the moment. Children of all ages will have questions and they may be difficult ones. They may wonder if themselves, their parents or grandparents are going to be okay, they may wonder if their parents’ jobs are at risk, or if there is a danger to beloved pets. At a time of considerable worry and confusion, offer as much reassurance as possible and stick to the absolute facts:

  • The virus is known to affect older people and individuals with respiratory concerns much more than healthy children
  • The rate of the virus causing severe symptoms is still very low
  • The government is working very hard to reduce the spread of the disease and safeguard the population

In these difficult times, it’s vital to reassure pupils and children that the situation is under control and that they can play a part in limiting the effect on everyone’s lives in the long term by making sure they are following advice, staying alert, wash their hands regularly and avoiding touching their face.

Practical

It’s vital to remind children and young adults of the practical ways that they can help themselves and their familes. Here are some ideas to build into your discussions:

  • Show children how to cough into the crook of their arm or into a tissue. This is a good opportunity to reiterate overall hygiene practices and why they are important in virus transmission situations.
  • Remind children to wash their hands when moving between activities and rooms. This can be fun – why not try singing a favourite nursery rhyme or for older children, a pop song chorus twice.
  • Children and young people may mask their concern and worries. Observe body language and general wellbeing during class time to ensure individuals are coping with the situation.

CAREMONGERING

There are huge numbers of positive news stories around the coronavirus pandemic. From individuals going above and beyond to help their communities to massive and sudden improvements in pollution levels around the world. Focusing on these good-news items might help to mitigate concern and encourage kind and thoughtful behaviours. We’d love to here your stories of Caremongering over on our Twitter channel – follow us on @engageeducation

Engage are here to support you in this difficult time. If you are experiencing any anxiety or would like to speak to someone, you can contact our partners’ Education Support for free on 08000 856 148 or by emailing support@edsupport.org.uk, to access a range of free counselling and wellbeing support.

 

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