Tuesday 3 March 2020

How do I talk to my young children about the Coronavirus COVID-19 and keep them safe?

"Jane have you heard of the Coronavirus?  Do you know anything about it?"

Jane immediately stopped what she was doing.  She came over to me and looked focussed. "Do you mean COVID-19?  That's it's proper name."  It was obvious she was being very serious and knew something about it. So I asked, "What do you know?  Do you want to know anything else about it?"

"I need to stop it spreading."

The Prime Minister gave a briefing this morning at which 39 people had been confirmed as having COVID-19 in the UK.  He said that there was likely to be further spreading of the virus. It's only a few hours later and the infected number is now 51.

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those for much more common viruses, such as colds and flu. It is a respiratory disease which starts with a fever, followed by a dry cough. After a week, it develops into shortness of breath and some people will need to go to hospital for treatment.

How do we tell and talk to our kids about the coronavirus?

Basically be honest and talk to your child in a way that's appropriate for their age.  The stats can sound scary but thinking your parents are hiding something that's dangerous from you is worse.

A clinical psychologist once told me that if you hide worries from your kids they then have two things to worry about - the thing that's the worry and the fact that they don't know how bad it is.

Our daughter is six years old and has obviously heard about the virus at school.  So what did we talk about? What did she want to know and what did I say?

Mummy, what is the coronavirus?

We talked about how coronavirus is a bit like a cold that can easily spread from person to person, but that it can make some people very sick.  Not very many children get sick but they can spread the virus just like spreading a cold. So to stop it spreading we wash our hands properly when we go to places, leave places and before we eat.  If we have a cough or sneeze, we use a tissue or the crook of our elbow.

Mummy, what's washing our hands properly?

Using warm water and soap, washing between your fingers, over your thumb, over the back of your hands and across your nails.  We have to wash our hands for 20 seconds.  What's your favourite thing to count?

Umm chocolates?

Great so count one chocolate, two chocolates, three chocolates all the way up to 20 and then you can dry your hands.

Mummy will I get sick, can people die from it?

For most people it could make them sick like they are when they have a bad cold or cough.  Not very many children get sick but they can spread the virus just like spreading a cold.

The people who might get really sick and need to go to hospital or die are usually unwell in another way too - like they may already be sick with something else or be very old and not very well.   That's why it's important that we help them not to get the virus by washing our hands to we can stop them getting it from us.

In some countries some of the sick people have died but not very many.  In our country we a lot of good doctors who look after us when we get sick.

After that she seemed fine. I pretty much told our eldest the same thing just with different vocabulary. We'll try and keep up with what's happening. Like I said, we won't be hiding things from the kids but need to talk to them at a level they understand an let them know that we keep them safe. Lastly, if you don't know something, let them know you'll find out... or even find out together.  The unknown is scary.

In the meantime the best we can do is maintain good hygiene according to the guidelines and keep ourselves healthy. We may stay away from some larger events especially as we are not that far away from some of the affected areas in the UK, but that's a judgement call we'll make on a case by case basis.

What are you doing or not doing because of the this? Are you talking to your kids about the coronavirus?


  1. I never really got chance to talk to my youngest about Coronavirus as the school got in their first as they had to have some kids tested when they came back from a skiiing trip in Italy. My youngest told me all about it and was quite knowledgeable about it. Phew! We are all about washing hands now and staying healthy x

    1. Sounds good. I work at a school so was seeing what they were telling the kids which helped.

  2. It's actually really difficult to talk to our youngest about it because she catastrophises everything. She's scared that I will get it and die. So I've had to be very careful with how I phrase things, and make sure she doesn't watch the news which is terrible for amplifying fears :/

    1. Jane is very worried about me dying and struggles with anything that involves death or the end of the world - global warming petrifies her. All I can do is be factual and say what we and she can do about it.

    2. My youngest has anxiety. I just focused on the fact that it's our responsibility not to spread it, and how we can be infectious before we get sick, and most kids won't get very sick at all, so we have to take any signs of not feeling well, like even overly tired, seriously and stay away from people. Then I stressed the hand washing and sanitising after touching things. And the physical distancing with friends (at school because our morons won't close them). She has not got worried about it at all. Focus on the doing things you can control, and the helping others aspect. Then it's not scary, it's just responsibilities we can manage.

  3. All we can do is be honest and age appropriate with how we tell our children. And keep the vulnerable in society safe. #KCACOLS

  4. My daughter get's the updates on her phone so she pretty much is up to date all the time. I don't think she is worried about it so much in the same way that most teenagers think it will never happen to them! #kcacols

  5. Mine just knows that people are getting really sick so we need to stay away from other people so we don't get sick. Sometimes keeping it simple is the best choice #KCACOLS

  6. Our kids are 16 and 14, so they get the gravity of the situation, and they understand it's important to stay clear of their friends, however hard this is. Thank God for Facetiming and Snapchat, and all that. So, so far so good! #KCACOLS


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