Feeling overwhelmed in these uncertain times is tough on us as adults so imagine how our children must be feeling.
Since March 2020 when the pandemic started in Namibia, they have been going through a lot of changes and have had to adapt to a whole new system and ways of doing things.
I would like to share a few points on how you can talk to your kids regarding COVID-19.
- Ask open questions and listen
Start by inviting your child to talk about the issue. Find out how much they already know and follow their lead. If they are particularly young and haven’t already heard about the outbreak, you may not need to raise the issue – just take the chance to remind them about good hygiene practices without introducing new fears. Make sure you are in a safe environment and allow your child to speak freely.
- Be honest: Explain to them in a child-like way
Children have a right to truthful information about what’s going on in the world, but adults also have a responsibility to keep them safe from distress. Use age-appropriate language, watch their reactions, and be sensitive to their level of anxiety.
- Show them how to protect themselves and their friends
One of the best ways to keep children safe from the novel Coronavirus and other diseases is to simply encourage regular hand washing and sanitising of hands.
You can also show children how to cover a cough or a sneeze with their elbow, explain that it’s best not to get too close to people who have those symptoms, and ask them to tell you if they start to feel like they have a fever, cough or are having difficulty breathing.
- Offer reassurance
When we’re seeing lots of troubling images on TV or online, it can sometimes feel like the crisis is all around us. Children may not distinguish between images on screen and their own personal reality, and they may believe they’re in imminent danger. You can help your children cope with the stress by making opportunities for them to play and relax, when possible. Keep their routines as regular as possible, especially before they go to sleep, or help create new ones in a new environment.
- Check if they are experiencing or spreading dishonour
As parents, it is important to explain to our children that COVID has nothing to do with what someone looks like, where they are from or what language they speak. If they have been called names or bullied at school, they should feel comfortable telling an adult whom they trust.
Remind your children that everyone deserves to be safe at school and in any social setting, for that matter. Bullying is always wrong and we should each do our part to spread kindness and support each other.
- Close conversations with care
It’s important to know that we’re not leaving children in a state of distress. As your conversation wraps up, try to determine their level of anxiety by watching their body language, considering whether they’re using their usual tone of voice and watching their breathing.
Remind your children that they can have other difficult conversations with you at any time. Remind them that you care, you’re listening and that you’re available whenever they’re feeling worried. And last but not least…
- Take care of yourself
You’ll be able to help your kids better if you’re coping, too. Children will pick up on your own response to the news, so it helps them to know you’re calm and in control.
If you’re feeling anxious or upset, take time for yourself and reach out to other family, friends and trusted people in your community. Make some time to do things that help you relax and recover.
Please take care, be strong and stay safe.