Parenty staff
2 minute read
6 Mar 2020
10:36 am

How to talk to your kids about the Coronavirus without freaking them out

Parenty staff

Yesterday South Africa confirmed its first case of coronavirus and its important that everyone including children are equipped with information.

Countries and territories with confirmed cases of the new coronavirus as of March 6 at 0200 GMT (AFP Photo/)

According to Parenty health expert and founder of Accessible Quality Healthservices (AQH) Dr Dulcy, “The Coronavirus is a respiratory virus that is spread by respiratory droplets. The spread of the virus is when people cough without covering their mouth and nose, then the droplets are suspended in the air and can be inhaled by other people. Also if you cough onto hands and not wash them with soap and water and other people handle objects that you have handled. People with weaker immune systems are more likely to be infected and ill from being exposed to the virus. This can be due to old age, babies, pregnant women and people with other chronic illnesses for instance.”

READ:First case of coronavirus confirmed in SA – what parents need to know

Tips to talk to your kids about the Coronavirus without freaking them out:

Use the right tone

What you say is going to be just as important as how you say it. Tone is vital when discussing coronavirus with a child, advises Angharad Rudkin, clinical psychologist and consultant on the parenting book What’s My Child Thinking? “We all enjoy scare stories to a degree, but we don’t like to hear them quite so much when they’re a bit closer to home,” she says. “Help your child put some distance between them and the threat by giving information about how coronavirus is spread and what we can do to help minimise the risk such as using loads of lovely bubbles when washing our hands.”

Use simple language

Keep in mind that the older the child you are talking to is, the better they are able to process complex information so use age appropriate descriptions and associations that will be easy for the child to understand.

Focus on things they can control

Dr Rudkin advises parents to talk to children about things they can control  such as disposing of tissues and personal hygiene rather than those they cannot.”Once the explanation is over, the conversation should move on to something that “isn’t threatening, such as what they had for lunch or who do they think is going to win the football match this evening”, she adds.

Reassure them

Give them ample opportunity to ask questions so you can determine their level of worry. Dr Rudkin says, “While parents have long experience in explaining global threats – war, terrorism and climate change – pre-adolescent children are still developing their ability to assess risk.So it’s important to find out what their level of worry over coronavirus is.”

“Be clear that you don’t know all of the answers but that there are people making decisions for us who have all the information they need”, adds Dr Rudkin.


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