Talking to your tweens about Covid-19
Let's face it, there's no escaping the headlines, WhatsApp group chats or social posts about coronavirus and as a nation we’re looking to government and experts to advise - and reassure - us amidst all this uncertainty. So it’s no wonder that our children our looking to us - their grown ups - to help them deal with what’s going on.
They want us to have the answers, but that can be hard, particularly if we’re also feeling anxious and unsure ourselves. After all, anxiety is what you feel when events out of your control start happening and a global pandemic is definitely up there in terms of ‘out of control life events’ so kudos to you that you’re here figuring out the best way to help your tweens get their heads round it.
We’re hoping some of this guidance will help you too:
1. First off: Cut yourself some slack - as a parent of tweens you’ll already know that your tween has been harbouring suspicions for a while that you don’t actually know EVERYTHING. That you too need to turn to the oracle of Google (or Alexa or Siri) to help them with their homework or to give them the latest updates on Covid-19, so don’t feel you HAVE to have an answer to everything on the spot. It’s ok to say that you will check; that you will find out for them and that as events move fast it’s best for you to get the latest info rather than tell them something that may already be old news.
2. Stay informed and get the facts; trust official sources, rather than everything you read on social media. The social media giants are already cracking down on misleading data masquerading as ‘news’ but it’s no easy feat, so the best sources to check are:
Your child’s school, who will be getting advice from the Govt
Try to avoid getting swept into speculation on WhatsApp groups, local gossip and conspiracy sites. Guidance from the World Health Organisation also suggests limiting the number of times you’re checking in on news and updates, as this in itself can become overwhelming.
3. Keep perspective and context: yes a global pandemic such as this, isn’t something any of us have any experience in dealing with, but the reality is that for the vast majority of us Covid-19 is comparable to Seasonal Flu in terms of its symptoms and importantly its mortality rate (ie how lethal it is) is still very low. Yes, it is more significant for those who are elderly and those with compromised immune systems but this is also true of seasonal flu and pneumonia.
Take a look at David McCandless, Information is Beautiful, for some simple visualisations that help show this and maybe use this to talk to your kids too. The reason there is such concern about Conronavirus, is how contagious it is and the fact that health services, globally, not just in the UK, are not set up to deal with so many people falling ill at the same time, particularly those who are in the high-risk category.
4. Be compassionate: having said all of the above; those people who do fall into the higher risk categories will be - rightly - concerned; and we should do all we can to protect them and ensure they are not put at risk. Your kids might be concerned about their grandparents or their elderly neighbours. This means that just because we might be fit and healthy we shouldn’t, and mustn't, unnecessarily put others at risk - hence the advice about social distancing.
Sometime the best ways we can help ourselves is to help others. Many acts of kindness and community support have sprung up in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and if you are fit and healthy, offering to help people in your neighbourhood can help you and your tweens feel more positive about doing something to beat it. Take a look for some inspiration here. Just ensure you’re following guidance about hand-washing and keeping at safe distances.
5. Be honest: kids will take their cues from you; but they are also excellent lie detectors. If you tell them not to worry and they then see you shouting hysterically at the delivery person (if you can get a delivery!) because they didn’t deliver the toilet roll / emergency 3 month beer provisions / Calpol - they’re not going to have much confidence in your reassurances. Far better to tell them honestly if you have concerns and say why and talk through together what the latest facts and information tells you (see pt 2) and put this into perspective (see pt3). If you are feeling anxious and finding it hard to cope there is some excellent guidance here on how to manage this:
Looking after your mental health:
Guidance on speaking to your kids about scary world news: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/talking-to-your-children-scary-world-news
We’ll be sharing suggestions and tips for coping with self-isolation and social distancing over the coming weeks and would love to hear your ideas, advice as well as your challenges.