Last week my seven-year-old daughter came home with a stomach ache. Her older brother, the charming little turd that he is, said to her, “It’s probably coronavirus.”
Her face went pale, her eyes went wide and her little lip started to quiver at the thought. Although we don’t speak much about coronavirus at home, clearly this word is something they know from school, the news and adult conversations around them, etc.
And clearly, it is a worry. After reassuring her that she doesn’t have coronavirus – and sending my scaremongering son to his room – I realised that the fear of coronavirus is very real and it’s probably time to have a conversation about it with my kids.
Current coronavirus health alert
According to health.gov.au, there are over 88,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide. 3,087 deaths. Most are in China but it has spread to 64 different countries and regions outside mainland China.
In Australia, the numbers aren’t nearly as frightening – 29 cases, one death (an 80-year-old man who had picked up the virus while on a cruise in Japan). But this virus is a killer and it is spreading at an alarming rate, especially in Europe.
We’re doing quite a lot to keep it contained, but the talk of coronavirus can still be alarming and worrying to kids. So, how can we keep them calm through the coronavirus outbreak?
Our top tips on talking to your kids about coronavirus
1. Choose to talk about it during the day
Night time is when the anxieties and fears come out. I find we have the best conversations when we’re driving as it’s more like having a chat side by side rather than lecturing them face to face.
2. Start with an open question
So, what do you think of coronavirus? Or, what do you know about coronavirus? Validate their fears and concerns and clear up any misconceptions they may have. There are a lot of stories in the news about it, some true, some not. This week alone I’ve heard the Pope and someone’s pet has it. And I know my kids heard that too because both came home asking if our dog could get coronavirus.
3. Give them the facts
Yes, coronavirus is a big concern but we are doing everything to keep it away. However, most people get sick and recover, especially healthy people like us. You may want to explain how our bodies fight off these infections and how we can reduce the risks.
4. Understand how it spreads
An easy way to explain it to kids – it spreads through saliva, surfaces, and sneezes. But, while it spreads easily, it’s also easy to kill with hand wash as the virus doesn’t pass through the skin.
5. Stress the importance of washing hands
Stock each bathroom and kitchen with hand wash. We have an antibacterial cleanser in the car too and the kids also carry one with them in their backpacks.
Children should sing “Happy Birthday” twice to know how long to wash their hands, and then make sure they are drying them thoroughly. Hand sanitisers may be less effective for small children because they need to evaporate fully to kill all the germs, and little kids may be rushing off to touch toys or other kids before the sanitiser has dried.
6. Explain what’s being done to stop it
Medical experts are working on vaccines, doctors and nurses are helping those who are sick and Australia is doing its best to keep the virus away as much as possible.
7. Explain the face masks
In many Australian cities, it’s common practice to see people wearing face masks. Explain why they are doing this as seeing people with face masks can be pretty scary for kids. This is the number one question my daughter has and assumes that if a person has a mask on, they have the virus. It’s important kids know this isn’t the case.
8. Don’t use scare tactics
Such as, if you don’t wash your hands, you could get coronavirus. I can just imagine my daughter lying in bed at night, terrified she would get it because she forgot to wash her hands before dinner.
9. Don’t avoid discussing it but keep it positive
Kids know more than we give them credit for and they can pick up on all kinds of vibes. So positive thoughts only when the kiddies are close by.
10. Keep adult conversation about coronavirus away
If you are worried about it and feel the conversation will be negative, wait and discuss it when they are not home. Ask family members and friends who are over to do the same. There is nothing worse than having a heated dinner debate about death, the end of the world and coronavirus when the kids are sitting next to you.
The bottom line? Some people are convinced coronavirus will be the end of us. Others are not too concerned about it. Whether you’re worried about coronavirus or not, have a chat to your kids to make sure they understand coronavirus, rather than fear it.
What to read next
- Killer Flu Season: Rising Death Toll Includes 3 Children
- This One Little Thing Can Stop Kids Getting Sick at Child Care
- Baby Tests Positive for Coronavirus 30 Hours After Birth