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  • Writer's pictureAmy Solon

Explaining COVID 19 to children

A note on explaining COVID 19 to children

When writing this blog ( I felt it was important to dedicate a particular section to speaking to children about COVID 19. It’s a worrying time for everyone. But just because little ears are, well little, it doesn’t mean that they don’t understand in some way. More significantly, they are very likely to put their own interpretation on the situation if they do not get the information that they need.

Unsurprisingly, a question I am being asked a lot at the moment is ‘how do I explain this to my children’? This is a tricky one. In one sense, we don’t want to overwhelm them with information. By the same token, children are so intuitive. Without us even knowing it, they are picking up the energy that we are giving off.

Ultimately, you will know what is best for your child. But my best advice is this. Be age appropriately honest.

Children need reassurance to feel that they are safe and are being protected. With this in mind, be mindful with the information they receive; translate the bigger concepts into more bite sized chunks. And if there are any behaviours you want them to adopt, break it down into concrete actions.

So for instance, you might want to say to your child that there is a problem with a new bug in the world. If we wash our hands however, this helps everyone to stay well.

As a final note, I would like to reassure all parents that it is perfectly normal if you are noticing behavioural issues with your children. Be patient with them – I know it can be hard when we are all living under a lot of stress – they rely on the routines that we give them to support them to feel safe. If you do notice increased anxiety, fears, separation anxiety, sleeping or behavioural issues, focus on a strong and steady emotional connection with plenty of encouraging words that allow them to feel safe and protected.

Case study: Sosi (age 4)

Let me take a minute to share with you how I explained the current situation to my (just turned) 4 year old.

Sosi is a bright little woman. There’s not much she misses. More power to her, but it means as parents, my husband and I have to be on the ball. Not least of all now.

In relation to COVID 19, firstly, I established what she already knew. Through a series of simple questions, she told me she had learned in nursery that there were dangerous bugs going around the world. This meant that she and her other little pals had to wash their hands frequently over the course of the day. This was a great start!

The next thing we did (to make the virus sound less scary), was to give him a name. Mr Poo Poo Maganahead is what we came up with… don’t judge me! Sosi is OBSESSED with poo, farts, wee… you name it! It sounds strange but giving her free reign with the name gave her some control over this ‘thing’ that wields a whole lot of control itself. There is method to my madness!

By personalising ‘Mr Poo Poo Maganahead’, we were able to build a bit more on his character. She very much led with this by describing how he has tentacles that try and reach out to catch people and give away his little bug helpers. Scary stuff! But she came to the good news conclusion, that Mr Poo Poo Maganahead likes living on people. So if we stay away from people, then his tentacles can’t get near to us.

I didn’t account for her asking why she couldn’t see her Gran-P, Granny and Grandpa anymore. So this question gave me a little more scope to build on Mr Poo Poo’s preferences. I told her that his tentacles really liked catching people with white hair. So for the time being, people with white hair would be staying in their houses to mind themselves. (I was a little deflated when she proceeded to tell me that I would have to stay inside because my hair was turning white. This lockdown is playing havoc with my hair colouring maintenance!)

Following this, she was momentarily concerned for our cats – they are black and white. However, she was much reassured when I told her Mr Poo Poo was scared of cats. Phew… quick save! Our cats are wanderers and won’t stay in for love nor money!

I feel that I covered most bases in relation to explaining the reasons why many things had changed for her in her world. And as questions continue to come up, I deal with them as best I can, with imagination, some age appropriate facts and with calm. For really, it is about taking your child’s lead – using their stories, interests, the metaphors they offer you – to create a reality that feels safer. A reality where they can have control. There is no right or wrong way to do this. This is what worked for us…. please feel free to use/ adapt.

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