Mummy, is the coronavirus going to kill me?
Family and educational psychologist Dr Alice Brown explains how you should address children's fears over the coronavirus.
In recent months the coronavirus has dominated the headlines and everyone is talking about it.
Rumours and gossip have spread far more quickly than the virus itself and with that comes misinformation, half-truths and, ultimately, fear of the unknown.
To a large extent, we as adults are capable of rationalising much of what we are hearing but children react differently and the younger they are the less they understand.
Children have vivid imaginations and the idea of a new virus that is killing people all over the world is the stuff of nightmares.
Naturally they will express their fears to adults and it is important that the way we react helps the child allay their fears. This is not the time for flippant comments or jokes such as suggesting every time someone sneezes, they have coronavirus.
So how do you talk to children about the virus, especially when you may be experiencing anxiety yourself?
It is important that their fears are validated but of course as parents we want to make them feel better. They need to be reassured without being dismissed with a simple “don’t worry” or “it will all be OK.”
Instead, you might want to try the following:
Take time to listen to what they have to say and answer any questions they have giving factual information that is age appropriate. These days children can be exposed to a raft of inaccuracy on social media as well as gossip and rumour among their peers so it is important to calmly unpick that and fill in the gaps.
Tell them their feelings are normal and lots of people are worried about it too.
Put their worries into context - for example, explain that comparatively few people have contracted the coronavirus in the UK and that very few are dying from it. Even if they did contract it, the chances are they will be fine.
Help them find solutions that may make them feel better such as washing their hands regularly and covering their nose and mouth when they sneeze. This is good advice anyway.
Explain that a lot is being done by doctors, scientists and the Government to ensure our safety.
Keep positive and offer reassurance - a big hug can go a long way.
Of course, we can’t lie to a child by saying everything will be fine - we can’t guarantee that. But by giving them the facts and making them question their fears, they can put them into context and make their own decisions.
For more information and a free consultation, call Dr Alice Brown on 01295660469 or email firstname.lastname@example.org