Talking to children about Coronavirus

Now I know this may come as news to you, it’s rarely mentioned in the news and media, but there is a virus going around called Coronavirus. If we want to be proper and fancy, COVID-19 is it’s real name, but somehow Coronavirus sounds a bit scarier so we’re going with that as a general public – also, it lends itself better to memes so….

All joking apart, it’s a nightly conversation in my house at the moment because it IS scary and and it IS big news. You can’t switch on the radio, the tv or walk past a magazine/newspaper without seeing something about it, and I’ve found that children do what children do best: drive each other to distraction with dramatic tales and misinformation.

Straight off the bat I want to clarify, I’m not a doctor or any medical professional. Frankly if I was I wouldn’t have a blog because I would be far too busy being *actually* useful to society and saving lives, so before anyone comes at me with “and what are your qualifications to back up your comments?” – none. These are my thoughts and feelings on how best to discuss Coronavirus with your kids – on how I’m discussing it with MY kids. If you don’t like the way I do it then, you know, don’t replicate it and do it your own way. Are we all good? Good.

So, I felt prompted to write about this after Reuben came home one night and, whilst I was cutting into the lasagne I had lovingly prepared, he blurted out “Are we all going to get Coronavirus and DIE?!”… and then bit into his garlic bread like it was his last meal. As much as we had a chuckle over his dramatics, it WAS a serious question, and when you’re 8 years old and your friend’s at school have been talking about how anyone with a cough or a sniffle (so pretty much all children) has the coronavirus and is going to die, it’s a major thing.

What did we do?

Let them lead you.

I know, I know, let the kid that is one shade away from an Oscar worthy hysteria fit lead you – it sounds silly, but it’s not. Let them ASK the questions, let them tell you that this is what they have been told and myth bust along the way. We had everything from “Timmy is going to die because he has been to Italy and he had to have a week off school sick! He’s got it hasn’t he mum?” followed by “I heard your brain sneezes out of your nose” and rounded off with my personal favourite, “I think we should all stay at home and eat sweets until this blows over.”

Kids are really innocent, but they aren’t stupid. Telling them “we don’t need to be talking about that” isn’t going to do diddly for their worries and their fears, but telling them that, yes, Coronavirus is a real thing, no you don’t sneeze your brain out of your nose and at some point we might all stay home for a little while, minus the constant Haribo as mummy will have to self isolate herself with some gin if you’re all hyper and we can’t leave the house, isn’t a bad thing. Talk about it, stick to age appropriate facts.

Telling the truth

Much like the national news, they ain’t letting this lie, but I firmly believe that honesty is the best policy with children in most walks of life (the honesty-o-meter dips in December every year and I’m not sorry for it). So what are the facts that we shared?

  • Can coronavirus kill you?” – Well, it can, but so can a lot of things that we have around us all the time. It’s not going to be deadly for fit, healthy young people, but it can be for people who are already very old, poorly or struggle to fight off illness. (FYI we say very old because if I say “old” they think I mean their dad… awks)
  • “What happens if you get it?” – It’s most likely going to feel like a very bad cold with a nasty cough and you will need some Calpol. Everyone is different.
  • “Is everyone going to get it?” – Lots of people will over time, but most of those people will be fine, we need to make sure we stay away from others if we’re poorly so they don’t get it too, and do something called ‘self isolate” which you might hear on the news. That means stay away from other people and cuddle on the sofa for two weeks. You can still play, but in your house, not around others.
  • “Will I have to go to hospital? – That’s unlikely.
  • “You have to wash your hands a lot!” – Yes, you do, but we should really be doing that anyway. (I’ve seen a really great tactic for trying a stamp on the hand at school/throughout the day. If it’s washed off by the end of the day, then they get a treat. Great way to encourage hand washing!)
  • “Where did it come from?” – Coronaviruses have been around for a time, but this is a new one and we don’t know exactly where it started, but we think it was in a place in China called Wuhan at a market.
  • “What happened in Italy? My friend went skiing there!” – they had a big outbreak and they are trying to make sure everyone is safe.
  • “Why is everyone buying toilet paper and soap?” – (resisting the urge to say “because they are dicks) Some people are panicking a bit, because there are so many things we don’t really know at the moment and if you have to stay in the house, you don’t want to run out of loo roll. The problem is we need to remember not to panic and buy lots and lots of things we don’t need because then other people might need it more, or there might be people who don’t have the pennies to buy and buy and buy, so they end up with nothing. Also, for us to all stay bug free, it’s important everyone can get hold of some soap, not just a few.”

That’s the majority of the “big questions” we’ve had. At the minute it’s life as normal for us, the kids go to school, we work from home so we’re really lucky.

We’ve also taken this as an opportunity to talk to the kids about why it’s really important to be caring and mindful of each other. When something like this happens we *have* to pull together as a society, be mindful of spreading infection to protect those that might be affected worse than us.

Does this help? I don’t know. What I do know is that children can hear and feel and see the panic that we have ping ponging around the world at the moment and it doesn’t serve us – any of us, so it’s really important to remember that when we chat to them!

Stay safe and sniffle free loves x

1 Comment

  1. Avatar March 16, 2020 / 2:48 pm

    Feel like that’s a great way to explain to kids, luckily my son is 18months and obviously has no clue what is going on. Other than the fact that I’m washing his hands and face more. Not a fan of it. But definitely great points, especially when they’re hearing/ seeing certain things from particular adults which can scare them.

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