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Coronavirus: How should you talk to a child about it?

If you've felt your children haven't picked up the right messages around Coronavirus, or you're simply finding it hard to discuss the topic with them on their level, here are some great tips to get you started:

  • Provide factual information in a child friendly and age appropriate way. Talk to children about what is happening at a level that is developmentally right for them and check what they already know about the situation. Children may have overheard adult conversations or picked up on stories from the media. Be honest but adjust the amount and detail to fit their age. Younger children may better understand a picture or cartoon. It is better for children to hear facts from a trusted adult to alleviate any worries that they may have. This will also avoid children drawing their own conclusions. It is important that children feel comfortable talking to you about the Coronavirus as you will be the best source of information and reassurance for them.
  • Be open to talking about emotions and help children identify how they are feeling. Help them to label and name their emotions (e.g. “I wonder whether you are feeling worried / sad / disappointed”). This can be particularly helpful when feelings are mixed up and confusing for children. You can also help children to do this by labelling and naming your own feelings. However, do not talk in detail about all of your fears and concerns.
  • Expressing emotions. Find different ways for children to express their emotions. Some children find it harder to talk about how they are feeling. This is particularly important for younger children. Get creative – draw, paint, play or act out scenarios with toys.
  • Be empathic and validate children’s worries and disappointments. Do not dismiss their concerns and feelings in an attempt to make them feel better – their concerns and feelings feel very real to them. Acknowledge how difficult it must be for them. For example, “I understand that you feel that way, it is difficult at the moment isn’t it”.
  • Active listening. Make sure that you are giving your full attention when you are speaking to your child – try not to be on your devices when you are speaking to them. Be curious and show that you are interested in what they are saying.
  • Normalising. Remind children that their feelings are normal right now given the situation. Talk about what you are doing to manage your own worries e.g. relaxing, watching a funny movie, breathing, exercising.
  • Manage your own worries and model remaining calm. Uncertainty can make all of us feel anxious. However, children will be picking up on your responses and can pick up on parental anxiety. Make sure that you have support and are engaging in your own self-care.
  • Give practical guidance. Remind children what they can do to stay healthy (e.g. washing their hands) and practice this with them. Again, younger children may better understand stories or pictures.
  • Keep talking to your child. Given that things are constantly changing, make sure that you continue to have these kinds of conversations as time goes on.



Professional Bio

Lorna Devine is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and Accredited Life Coach. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology, a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and Mental Health and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Lorna is also a qualified Life Coach, Personal Performance Coach and Acceptance-Action Coach, Therapist and Trainer.

With more than 10 years’ experience in clinical practice, Lorna has worked with over 3000 clients. Working closely with children, young people and parents on a range of issues including anxiety; low mood; school problems; building confidence and self-esteem; building resilience; family difficulties including parental separation and divorce, Lorna has helped countless clients achieve their goals of overcoming and coping with a variety of personal difficulties. Lorna also supports high achievers and professionals to overcome a range of difficulties including (but not limited to) anxiety, stress and perfectionism.

Lorna adopts an integrative approach to client work, combining different tools and techniques from a variety of evidence-based psychological models of therapy and coaching to specifically meet clients’ needs; enabling transformational and lasting changes.

In addition to offering 1:1 online therapy and coaching sessions, Lorna delivers corporate talks, wellness workshops, group sessions including psychoeducational and relaxation groups and consultation services.

Lorna has worked with and been featured in leading brands such as the BBC News, Harper's Bazaar, Sweaty Betty, Sheer Luxe, Hip and Healthy and many more.

You can connect with Lorna on Instagram (@lorna_devine) and find out more about her work at www.lornadevine.com. She regularly contributes to and writes articles on a range of topics related to emotional health and wellbeing. You can find these at: https://www.lornadevine.com/blogs-articles

Tags: Family | Author: Lorna Devine, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and Accredited Life Coach