Advice from Michael Carr-Gregg
News of the coronavirus is everywhere, from the front page of all the papers, social media feeds and of course the school yard. Many parents are wondering how to bring up the epidemic in a way that will be reassuring and not make kids more worried than they already may be. Parents shouldn’t avoid talking about it, because not talking about something can actually make young people more anxious. As a psychologist I’d encourage parents to use the conversation as an opportunity to convey the facts, with simple messages, all the while setting a positive, optimistic emotional tone. Parents should be purveyors of hope. The 6 main points to make are:
- Reassure your child this is a virus not the plague, the fact is that most people only get a mild illness and fully recover within a few weeks
- Remind them that children very rarely get sick and when they do it is usually just like a cold.
- Describe what the main symptoms are and encourage them to let you know if they feel unwell.
- Reassure them that their pets are not affected.
- Tell them that we all have to change our behaviours, wash our hands more, practice not touching our face as much, learn coughing etiquette, and a foot tap instead of handshake.
- Let them know about all the scientists across the world who are working together to find vaccines and treatments. If they are concerned about grandparents or others, validate this as a sign of how caring and loving they are and focus on positive messages about the medical care and support available.
Parental self care during the coronavirus shutdown
- Get outside
- Stay Connected
- Cook and bake healthy food
- Learn something new online
- Do some therapy online
- For Anxious Teens and Children:
- Moodgym – com.au
- The Brave Program – psy.uq.edu.au
- OCD? Not Me! – ocdnotme.com.au
- This Way Up – org.au
- Ecouch – ecouch.anu.edu.au/welcome