8 Tips | Talking To Your Kids About Coronavirus
Although you may not want to frighten your kids by talking about Coronavirus (COVID-19), parents need to be there for their kids to ease their concerns about the virus.
The first case of Coronavirus in the Cayman Islands was confirmed on Thursday 12 March 2020 during a Government press conference. The Cayman Islands Government has assured the public that the public health authorities are closely monitoring the situation and persons infected with this virus. The best thing you can do to protect your children is to encourage them to wash their hands and practice good hygiene.
Here are 8 tips for parents to help them and their children deal with anxiety and stay informed:
- Find out what they know first- Your kids may know a lot more than you think. During the initial conversation regarding the virus, you should first start by asking your kids what they already know or may have heard. This will give you a starting point on the areas that need to be covered and can be the perfect time to clear up any rumours that they believe or elaborate stories that they have imagined.
- Don’t be afraid to discuss the virus- Kids hear our fears and overhear everything. Not involving them in the discussion will cause them to worry. Unless you have been watching the news and listening to the radio in private, your kids will also be hearing and seeing everything that is happening. It’s wrong to assume that children are oblivious to world events or too young to understand what’s going on.
- Be developmentally appropriate- When talking to your child about COVID-19, consider their age and developmental level. Teens are usually more exposed to the news and updates on the coronavirus due to social media. While younger kids are not as exposed to the news, it is equally as important to talk to them about world events. Sometimes news stories can use wording that is scary for children; therefore you will need to further explain it in a way that they can easily process and understand the information. Children have elaborate imaginations that may lead them to create intricate stories in their minds if parents do not answer their questions or present the facts about a topic like this.
- Keep the information short but factual- Try your best to answer all of their questions. If you don’t have an answer right away, involve them in your research to better understand the virus. Find the right balance between answering questions well enough without fuelling their anxiety. The best thing you can do is encourage them to learn the facts and recommended health guidelines. Remind them that the health risks from coronavirus are relatively low for Cayman, and there is a lot that can be done to lower your chances even further. Not all facts will need to be discussed with them. Telling them that the virus is affecting the older people will create more anxiety because they will then start to worry about you and their grandparents. Although providing too little information leads to them wondering, providing too much information may create extra alarm.
- Deal with your anxiety- Children react to what you say, how you say it and can usually tell when adults are saying one thing and feeling another. When talking about a topic like this, be reassuring and don’t pass on your fears. Offering comforting words won’t be effective and portray the right message if your anxiety is riding high. If you are tense, you may be unable to comfort your kids properly.
- Practice good hygiene- The virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing, so keeping your hands and face clean is highly recommended to reduce the risk of being infected. Here are a couple of ways to practice good hygiene:
- Kids should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing, going to the bathroom, before eating and entering the house – Make it fun by encouraging them to sing a nursery rhyme or song, such as Itsy Bitsy Spider or I’m A Little Tea Pot. This will make them more likely to want to wash their hands and ensure that they are washing them for at least 20 seconds
- Keep their hands away from their face
- Encourage your kids to carry their hand sanitiser in their bags for the times they need to clean their hands but don’t have access to soap and water
- Keep social distance from someone who is sick and experiencing symptoms
- Getting enough sleep can also protect their immune system
- Encourage them to avoid embracing their friends – Instead they can use a fist bump or elbow bump
- Stick to your routine- Straying away from your normal routine may cause kids to worry. A routine offers stability during times of stress and provides a sense of security and comfort. Keeping children close to their parents will help children cope with stress. To reduce stress, you can also include more family activities such as game nights and movie nights into your routine. If you do need to stray from your routine, inform the kids why and ensure regular contact and reassurance.
- Reduce screen time- To avoid anxiety, reduce the amount of time focused on COVID-19. It’s best to remember that they feed off of how you respond to these social events as well. The constant availability of new information may spur your kids to check for news updates actively. Remind them not to rely on rumours or unreliable sources.
Facts about COVID-19:
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is thought to have emerged from illegally traded wildlife at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan (China) with the first case being reported in December 2019. At present, there is no vaccine available, and treatment is supportive care based on the patient’s symptoms. When a disease is new, it can take up to a few years for a new vaccine to be developed.
- Sore Throat
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
Symptoms occur 2-14 days after being exposed to the virus. Coronavirus pneumonia is a dry cough with no runny nose. If you have a runny nose and sputum, you may have a common cold.
If you have concerns or are exhibiting symptoms, please call the flu hotline.
Flow Flu Hotline Number: 1-800-534-8600
Digicel Flu Hotline Number: 1 (345) 947 3077
Mental Health Hotline: 1-800-534-6463
For the latest information on coronavirus, please refer to WHO, the Health Services Authority or the Cayman Resident website.