Updated: Apr 3, 2020
My son has been talking about the novel coronavirus, officially named as Covid-19, ever since news about it became global back in January. He keeps on asking if we have masks ready, hand sanitisers available and vitamins to help him “not get the virus”. I did talk to him about it and assured him that we are miles away from China where majority of the cases are and that our government is doing the best it can to protect the Australian community. I thought that was enough, I didn’t realise that he kept thinking about it, got more anxious and has actually kept himself abreast of the latest news about the virus enough that he knows more about it than me and my husband combined!
As a busy working mum, I haven’t really had the chance to be on top of what’s new about this recent outbreak until last night when I heard on the news that it’s spreading rapidly outside China - with South Korea having the highest number of deaths followed by Italy. I'm not sure how many lives have succumbed to the virus in China but the numbers keep growing. That’s when I felt my own anxiety creeping in and a lot of what if’s began to cross my mind. I know that Australia is taking precautionary measures already but what about the rest of the world? What will happen to the world economy? What will happen to my loved ones overseas? Are they protected enough? How can this virus stop claiming more lives and how far are our scientists into discovering the vaccines? See?? There you go, rapid firing of what ifs in like 10 seconds.
As a Counsellor I know that it’s very important for parents not to show our kids our anxiety and fear. If it can't be helped, we need to talk to them to explain why we are scared but also provide them with assurance we are here for them and that there are already people who are trying to find a cure for it. Calming their fears and worries helps them to feel safe and secure despite the challenges around them. As a Christian, we need to use this situation to lead our kids to trust God more and understand the need for us to pray for the family, for the society and for the world (You, too, can do it whatever faith you may belong to.)
There are four things we can do to help our kids understand what’s happening around the world without scaring them:
1. FACT-CHECK FROM OFFICIAL and RELIABLE SOURCES. Understand where Covid-19 came from and how it’s passed on. Do a bit of research about it. I would recommend talking to your GP about it as they have more medical knowledge about it.
I know sometimes it’s easier to get information on social media but sometimes they are sensationalised and many are half-truths and completely false. Unreliable sources create scare mongering in the social media community and next thing you know everything is already blown out of proportion.
2. NORMALIZE IT. Talk to them about different viruses we are exposed to every day ( flu virus) and also the past global outbreaks like SARS which claimed many lives but scientists were able to find a cure and the spread of the virus was contained. Instill hope in them that this new virus can also be stopped and that it’s just a matter of time when scientists will formulate the vaccine for it.
3. TEACH THEM TO BE VIGILANT AND TO PRACTICE PROPER HYGIENE.
Teach them to wash their hands frequently, cover their mouths when coughing, especially when they’re not feeling well - feverish, colds or cough. If feeling under the weather, it’s ok to stay home and rest to recover.
We can also use this time to educate them about the importance of eating the right food to strengthen their immune system. Yes, when I spoke to my son about our immune system and how to look after it, he started asking me to buy fresh vegetables and fruits!
4. CHECK IN WITH THEM DAILY. It’s always good to have that open conversation to gauge where they are at in terms of what they know about the world situation relative to the virus. Kids these days can easily access information so make sure they are getting accurate information. Assure them that you are always there to answer any questions that they may have, making sure you yourself are well-informed. It will also give them the chance to freely talk about anything that may be bothering them, virus-related or not.
These are just simple steps but I think it will help our families and our kids to react better with what’s happening in the world. With proper guidance, right education, we can minimise anxiety amongst our children, teenagers and adults alike.