How to talk to your child about Coronavirus

It’s a conundrum isn’t it? In our constantly connected world, we sometimes don’t realise how much of the big media stories our children are absorbing and what effect it may be having upon them. I was driving my youngest, aged ten, to school the other morning and had the radio on in the car. There was a phone-in with some experts about the possible issues and impacts on everyday life that a more widespread coronavirus epidemic may bring. My youngest is usually a chatterer, especially on car journeys – we get to talking about every topic under the sun on our way to school! This particular morning though, I suddenly became aware that he actually hadn’t said a single word. My immediate thought was that he might be feeling poorly, so I asked him if he was feeling ok. He said he was, but I could immediately tell that something wasn’t quite right. As I drove the short distance between his elder siblings school and his own he suddenly blurted out –“I’m sick of hearing about the coronavirus!”

It wasn’t difficult to work out that he had been worried by the content of the phone-in that I had been listening to. Experts had been talking about the death rate in China, self-isolating and having an underlying health condition such as asthma, which my son had when he first started school. It made me think – how often do our  youngsters go online and see a news headline which is scary? Even if they don’t actually visit a news website and read further, Google, MSN and other search engines will invariably have a headline on their opening pages. Do we often have the news on in the background whilst making dinner, unaware that the content may stick in the minds of particularly, younger children and cause them to worry? When a big news story is breaking like the spread of coronavirus worldwide or the latest terrorist atrocity, is this something we should be much more aware of?

What did I do with this worried child in the few remaining moments I had to settle him before arriving at school? Well I don’t believe in brushing things under the carpet, neither did I want him unduly worrying. I took the approach of explaining to him that yes, there is an illness called Coronavirus which has affected people mainly in China (at the point when we were speaking there were few cases outside of China and this was a mainly pre-emptive phone-in aimed at people who were thinking of travelling abroad) I told him that it like the flu and that we all needed to remember to wash our hands and if we sneezed to use a tissue then throw it away. I also told him that the people most likely to be affected are those who are much much older than him and that there are lots of plans in place to make sure that everyone who gets the virus will be really well looked after. By talking briefly and factually I was able to allay my son’s fears.

If you are going to speak to your child about Coronavirus some things to think about include:

  • Taking into account their general level of fear about health-related issues. Some children can have a strong fear of germs which can be hugely exacerbated in situations such as the current one.
  • Give advice that matches that being given by the school and health authorities – conflicting advice helps no one.
  • Remind your child about hand washing and provide them with tissues. Washing hands when they come in from playtime and when they come home from school is a good routine for any school day.
  • Limit their exposure to news reports about the coronavirus situation, but if they do have questions don’t brush them off – answer honestly and factually in a way appropriate for their age.
  • Try to hide any worries you may have as your anxiety will pass on to your children. Heading to the supermarket with children in tow and proceeding to stockpile toilet rolls, cleaning fluids and tinned food as I have seen in recent days, is not going to do anything but panic the children.

The Covid-19 story has progressed in quite a major way as the days have passed since our conversation and it could well be that my son’s everyday life may eventually start to be impacted by the spread of the virus around the country. Emails have been sent from both schools that my children attend, and I have continued to remind them about the importance of handwashing throughout the day.  I’m keeping up to date with the latest coronavirus developments and will make my own contingency plans when needed, but for now though, for my children, it is business as usual.

Here at Educompendium we are developing a resource pack for parents of Primary aged children packed full of activities to help families cope should widescale school shutdowns need to take place.  If you would like to be kept informed as to its availability or would like further information about our online tuition email caroline@educompendium.com

Developing a Growth Mindset in your child

There are a lot of buzzwords thrown around in Education – In the first of a series of blog posts, in which we seek to decode some of those buzzwords, we take a look at the idea of a ‘Growth Mindset’.

One of the most important things we as educators and parents can do for children is to build up their confidence, whilst the same time reassuring them that sometimes, failing, is a necessary part of learning. So what do we mean by a ‘Growth Mindset’?

The most successful learners have been found to be those who are accepting of the idea that knowledge is gained little by little and that skills increase as they are practiced. A child who expects to get everything right first time would not be described as having a growth mindset. We have all come across those children – perfectionists at heart who despair at not understanding immediately and sometimes become so frustrated they give up at the first hurdle. It is a trait some carry on into adulthood with the resulting drop in self esteem causing problems in the workplace.

One of the ways we can combat this is to use phrases which praise a child’s work ethic and don’t focus on results – so try saying thing like:

You are working really hard – I love that!

You get better each time you try

You are focusing so well at the moment

It really shows that you have been practising so hard

That took so much effort – well done!

When things really don’t go to plan we need to encourage resilience and perseverance and offer support – recognising that things aren’t quite right shouldn’t be avoided – useful comments at this stage would be:

So you’ve found that isn’t working – what do you think you could try next?

What do you think went wrong and how do you think we can fix this?

Keep going you are nearly there – shall we try a different way?

Instilling a love of learning and a developing resilient approach to difficulties are two goals that should be at the heart of any learning environment. Next time a child tells you that they can’t do something because it is just too difficult, challenge their thinking and help them to develop a growth mindset which will make them a more confident lifelong learner.