How best to speak to your children about Coronavirus - Nicky Cox MBE
As the world heads towards an official coronavirus ‘pandemic’, hysteria around the issue is also growing exponentially.
Getting stuck in this cycle of hysterical news is making it very difficult to ascertain exactly how worried we should all really be and making sense of the purported threat, in the face of so much media sensationalism, is not easy, particularly for children.
As teachers, children will look to you for answers.
But how best to address their questions when we ourselves are unsure as to what we are really dealing with? Here’s a quick guide:
1. BE AS OPEN AND HONEST AS YOU CAN
Children are far more switched on than we give them credit for and there is no point trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Talk to them openly about their worries and concerns and don’t make it an ‘off-limits’ topic in the classroom. By discussing the issue openly we can help children to understand the importance of handwashing and staying germ-free.
2. FOCUS ON THE FACTS, BUT NOT JUST THE NEGATIVES
The media likes to talk about the rapid spread of the virus, the rising number of deaths and the panic buying. When it comes to speaking to your children, focus on the ACTUAL facts and figures as these are surprisingly reassuring: Around 96,000 cases of Coronavirus have been confirmed worldwide, with just 280 of these in the UK.
There have been around 3000 deaths in total, but only 200 of which have been outside of China and only three victims have been UK residents (both of whom were in their 70s and had underlying health conditions). To put this in context, so far this winter, the ‘normal’ flu virus has killed 84 people in the UK and over 16,000 in the United States.
For 4 out of 5 people contracting the virus, their symptoms will be very mild, like a normal cold or flu. Children are also far less likely to contract the virus, making up less than 2% of patients. Yes, the COVID-19 strain is very contagious, but in the same way that coughs, cold and flu-type illnesses are.
3. THERE ARE EFFECTIVE, PREVENTATIVE MEASURES WE CAN ALL TAKE TO AVOID THE VIRUS
Thorough handwashing, throwing tissues straight in the bin and avoiding people who are ill are all obvious, straightforward things that we should all be doing at school and at home anyway!
4. BE WARY OF SENSATIONALIST HEADLINES BUT DON’T RESTRICT KIDS’ ACCESS TO NEWS
News programmes have hours and hours of space to fill and newspapers rely on dramatic front pages to sell papers. But rather than discourage children from reading papers and watching the news, it’s important to encourage them to apply critical thinking – get then to question what they read and hear, and support them not to be afraid to voice concerns, fears and worries.
Click here to view live figures: www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries