The Covid-19 pandemic has had many effects on the world, and they haven’t stopped now that the worst of the pandemic is over.
There have been issues that have caused and will cause a lasting impact on everyone involved in the pandemic, and not least of all, children.
Children across the world have experienced the stress and trauma of a global pandemic at a very critical developmental stage in their life. It makes complete sense that this is likely to have had lasting effects on them and their brains.
Mental health in children has been impacted greatly by the pandemic, in a myriad of ways. Grief, anxiety, phobias, social anxiety, agoraphobia, healthy anxiety, depression, and much more have been seen in children during and post-pandemic.
We can’t take away the pain and stress that Covid has caused for a lot of children, particularly not when it comes to grief and bereavement, but one thing we can do is learn how to talk to kids about Covid. How we talk to them about the issues that have happened and are happening can affect how they are able to deal with and understand things themselves. Without our input, their brains might have difficulty understanding things as they are and instead fill in the gaps with things that are much scarier and unknown.
It is up to us to learn how to talk to kids about Covid so that kids can understand Covid and deal with it, that’s the bottom line.
Here are our top tips on how to do just that.
Avoid phrasing things in ways that are scary
With children, it is very easy to make things scary very quickly, even if we don’t realise we are doing it. When a lot of people have been thinking about how to talk to kids about Covid, they have gone down the route that fairytales and stories have done for centuries; they have made Covid into the big bad wolf that we need to stay away from and hide from. While we might think that this is a good way to describe things to kids because we think it will make things make sense to them, it can just make them more scared of the virus and what it means.
We need to try our best to avoid monster allegories and any terms that are overly scary to children. One of the best ways we can describe things to them is in plain English, “There is a virus that is making people unwell, it spreads between people so we need to keep our distance and wash our hands to keep healthy and safe”.
The best thing to do is focus our emphasis on what we can do to keep ourselves healthy and safe, rather than vilifying an invisible monster who is out to get us. We can teach our children to be hygienic and responsible, without scaring the wits out of them.
There are even things we say when we are trying to be positive that might make our children more scared. Things like “you need to be a brave boy when you’re outside”. This tells our children that they need to be brave because there is something outside to be scared of, doubling down on their fear and anxiety.
Try and keep it positive whenever you can.
Don’t ignore things either
On the flip side, very often when people are thinking about how to talk to kids about Covid without scaring them, they think of not telling them anything at all.
This doesn’t help either and it can contribute to children feeling more scared, again.
Children know when something is going on around them and so when we try to deny to them that something is happening, they can end up far more confused and disorientated than they would if we simply spoke to them about things.
They don’t need to know everything, of course. There are things about the pandemic that are too adult-themed for children to deal with and they don’t need to know every gory detail. But they do need to know about things so that everything they have to do in consequence makes sense. If we want them to wash their hands more and wear a mask at school for a while, we need to tell them why. We can’t leave them in dark but expect them to follow orders anyway. It’s important they understand what is happening around them as much as possible.
How to talk to kids about Covid?
Talk to them about Covid.
Use resources and materials to help
If you aren’t entirely sure how to talk to kids about Covid, there is a world of information and resources out there to help you. There are a lot of teachers and general children experts who release books, blogs, videos, and podcasts that aim to help children and parents deal with difficult topics, and how to talk to kids about Covid is certainly no exception.
If you don’t think you have the words to deal with a certain topic, that is ok, you are only human. But there will be someone somewhere who is able to help you out.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
For our final tip, it is simply a reminder to not be too hard on yourself with this.
The pandemic was and is stressful for adults and children and it’s ok that you don’t have things entirely figured out yet.
If you are finding it hard to know exactly how to talk to kids about Covid, don’t think for one second that you are alone with that. All you can do is try your best but know that if you get it wrong, it won’t automatically be the end of the world.
We are all on a learning curve together, and that is more than ok.
Give yourself a break.