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

What do you mean you need to make a model of the solar system and it is due in tomorrow?!

The Scene: An ordinary suburban kitchen around 4pm the Sunday before school reopens after half term…

The Characters: First we have Mum, who has just sat down with a cup of tea and is inwardly congratulating herself on being fully prepared for the first day back to school – all uniform washed and ironed – all bags packed – all school shoes present and correct.

Then we have The Boy – who without taking his eyes off the PlayStation screen announces – ‘Oh, I just remembered – I was supposed to make a model of the solar system over half term – it’s due in tomorrow’.

The ensuing panic is something most parents will experience at some point during their child’s school days. The hastily cobbled together project, then usually in truth, involves the parents hurriedly making and child simply observing. The end result is a learning opportunity wasted. Parents working or looking after younger siblings and the demands from school ever increasing can make keeping track of the to do list seem like a full time job in itself.

Communicating about homework projects, announcements about events or reminders about dress up days and charity events can be one of the trickiest issues parents and schools face. It would seem ridiculous that in our constantly connected world the message that little Freddie needs to come dressed as a Roman Soldier this Friday can still fail to get through. Most schools have a weekly newsletter and a Facebook Group, a school website and even a text messaging system, but there will always be the ones who miss the message, myself included. We’re lucky if there is a super organised parent who will do his or her best to ensure that everyone is up to speed.

As a parent I’d like a little bit more warning sometimes of the need to turn a sheet into a Toga. Involving parents in medium term planning is something which some schools do – an outline of what is being covered that term and any key dates and projects given in advance can be a godsend for busy parents.

I miss the days of the printed school newsletter and the simple system I used to have of fishing the crumpled sheet of A4 out of the bottom of a damp school bag. I’d pin it straight on to the notice board in the kitchen and highlight any dates with bright orange pen. Whilst I get that schools want to cut down on printing costs and the cost to the environment, it always seemed to be a far easier way. Our digital worlds are so huge these days that request for half a dozen iced cupcakes with stars on can so easily get lost in the cloud.

We’ve created a printable which will help keep you on track with 7 weeks or approximately half a terms worth of ‘must do’s and don’t forgets’

Download your free copy here – whether you print or use it digitally it’s up to you but we hope it helps…