How to talk to your child about the novel coronavirus

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 23 2020 06:35 PM

Bikers ride on an empty tunnel following the suspension of mass transportation to contain the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Manila. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

MANILA -- A non-profit organization is reminding the public that children, not just adults, also experience stress, fear, and anxiety over uncertain situations such as the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, Save the Children Philippines called on parents and guardians to always talk to their kids and observe them for common reactions to stressful events such as regression to younger behavior, disturbances in sleeping and eating patterns, increased crying and irritability, and becoming withdrawn or hyperactive.

"Parents should continue to provide their children a safe and caring environment where they can freely express and communicate their worries and fears about what is currently happening, and be provided with the necessary information, comfort and support to address their concerns," said Wilma Banaga, child protection advisor of Save the Children Philippines.

According to Banaga, talking to children about COVID-19 is important so they can understand, for instance, the reason behind the lockdown that suspended their classes and continues to limit their mobility.

She reminded parents to observe these six ways to communicate with them effectively about the virus, published as is:

1. MAKE THEM FEEL SAFE

Be honest and give children information to make them feel as safe as possible. Parents and guardians must follow guidelines in keeping the family and the place sanitized. They must provide comfort to children when manifesting anxiety and fears through hugs or soothing words, and assure them that they are there to protect them.

2. STICK TO THE FACTS AND USE WORDS THAT CAN BE EASILY UNDERSTOOD BY CHILDREN

Having the right information lessens children’s distress. Give your children factual information, but not too much information as it can be overwhelming. Listen to the child’s questions and worries to have an informed conversation.

3. VALIDATE THEIR FEELINGS, WHILE REASSURING THEM

Ask children how they feel and assure them that everyone is working together to keep each other healthy. Children need to hear what needs to be done to help stop the spread of virus.

Tell your child: "I know you are irritable right now because you are getting bored that we cannot go out. I understand that feeling. We are all experiencing that as well but we can do some fun activities together inside the house. Do you have any suggestions?"

Or "I understand you are afraid and it is okay to be afraid because the situation is really scary, but people in government all over the world are working together to find a solution to this situation as soon as possible. Many people who get sick also recover, and we are doing our part to help in not spreading the virus by staying at home."

4. REGULARLY CHECK ON YOUR CHILDREN

Aside from checking on the health status of your children, parents and guardians should have a regular conversation with them to ask what they know about COVID-19. Children and teenagers get information from different sources, some of which may not be trustworthy. So, it is important to let them know that any time they have a question on what is currently happening, and if they want to clarify things they read or heard, they can always come to you. Answer any question they might have and address any misinformation.

If older children wish to watch the news, watch it together so you can answer any questions.

5. CHILDREN CAN CONTRIBUTE

Remind them of what’s in their power -- washing hands thoroughly and often, practice cough etiquette, and getting plenty of sleep, etc. Children deal with difficult situations better when they know what to do and how to do it. Talk about ways to prevent getting ill and not pass the virus to others such as cooperating with the authorities’ efforts such as staying at home during community quarantine.

 6. MODEL GOOD HYGIENE, AND MAKE IT FUN

Children remember things easier when they are taught in a fun and creative manner. Help them remember the preventive measures against COVID-19 through song or dance like the #Covidance from the Department of Health. You can also teach them about the importance of washing their hands with soap through the "pepper experiment" or as simple as singing their favorite song while washing their hands for 20 seconds.

Meanwhile, Save the Children is conducting online consultations with kids in resettlement sites in Pasay, Tanay, Rizal, and Naic, Cavite to understand how they are affected by mitigation measures such as the community quarantine and social distancing.

The consultation will also promote proper hygiene practices to children and their families to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

For his part, Save the Children Philippines chief executive officer Atty. Alberto Muyot encouraged the government to implement comprehensive plans to enable remote learning for kids who miss out on school, and ensure children will have access to appropriate care in the event an adult caregiver requires hospitalization.

“While local governments implement precautions to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, these measures must be implemented with the best interest of the child in mind,” he said.