News travels fast and nothing has traveled faster in the past few weeks than the news about the corona virus (COVID – 19). It’s everywhere: on the front page of newspapers, on the TV on the radio, on the internet and now even in the school playgrounds.
I have had this conversation with a couple of my colleagues who work with children and of course we know that news of an epidemic/pandemic such as this is going to cause such a lot of anxiety amongst children who are already struggling with anxiety disorders.
We came up with the following advice for parents:
- Discuss the situation re the outbreak with your child/children. Most children will have already heard about it or seen people wearing masks over their mouths so they will already have some idea that something is going on out of the norm. Not talking about it and trying to keep it from them is going to make them worry even more. You should be the one who listens to the news and then filters that information to your child. It’s better that they hear the facts from you than from some kid in the playground who will undoubtedly catastrophise everything.
- Depending on your child’s age and maturity, don’t volunteer too much information that they can’t cope with as it may well be too overwhelming for them. However, what you can do is answer your child’s questions – and it doesn’t matter if you don’t have answers for ALL their questions, just be there for them and be as honest as you can.
- It is a great idea to ask your child what he or she already knows about the virus, then put him right on things that he has misunderstood or misinterpreted. Your goal is really to avoid encouraging any fantasies that will frighten him.
- Your child will be worried about whether he is going to catch it ( or his parents or siblings) but you can explain how rare the corona virus actually is, and explain how the flu is much more common, and the children specifically, are much less likely to get it.
- An important way to help children be reassured is to stress to them the importance of the safety precautions. Arm them with ways to keep safe – washing their hands for around 20-30 seconds, when they come in from the outside, or have blown their nose etc. If they ask about having a face mask, just explain to them that it isn’t really necessary at the moment but some people are just taking extra precautions because they may have another illness that makes them a little weaker than most of us.
- Children don’t like uncertainty, so keeping to your normal routines as much as possible during this difficult time. If your child’s, school, nursery, or childcare facility shuts down, make sure you don’t make a huge fuss about it – treat it like a normal break and try and keep to your normal routines as much as possible.
- Keep children updated and let them know that they can ask you any questions about it at any time. You can say something like: “We might not have ALL the answers to all your questions at the moment but just know that when we do, mummy and daddy will tell you.”
It’s hard to think that, despite you being careful of how you talk to your child about worrying topics, you may find yourself passing your OWN stress and anxiety onto to your child. So, managing your own stress and anxiety is important during these difficult times. One lady called me a couple of weeks ago and said “My daughter (8 years old) is struggling with anxiety over the Corona virus can you help”
Of course, I said yes, I could help but went on to ask what she had done to help her child so far.
“I’m too scared to talk to her about it” she said “because if I do, I know my own stress and anxiety will show and I don’t want to make things worse for her when she is already very anxious.”
So, I suggested, that she had a one – off session, to alleviate her own anxiety, and then be able to help her child. She was then able to calmly talk to her little one in a way that alleviated HER anxiety. I helped the mum build a framework or a scaffolding to support the child’s stress and anxiety.
For further information how I can help you, or your child, stay calm in worrying situations please contact me at: www.focus-hypnotherapy.co.uk