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Talking about COVID-19 with children

Children depend on familiar routines. When an emergency or epidemic like COVID-19 interrupts this routine, children may become anxious, confused, or frightened.

These feelings may be expressed in a variety of ways such as becoming clingy or withdrawn, becoming increasingly shy or aggressive or returning to outgrown behaviours like thumb-sucking or carrying a cuddly toy.

Children have a right to know what is going on, but as adults, we have a responsibility to protect them from distress. There are ways to talk to children that will help limit their fears and address their concerns.

It’s important to use language that they will understand. Show that you are listening and that their concerns are important to you. Remind them that you are there to look after them. Explain that China has done a good job of researching and understanding the virus and is now coming out the other side, and so will we. Tell them if we listen carefully, and follow advice from the experts, it will be okay. Importantly, limit their exposure to news coverage and adult conversations about the outbreak.

Finally, it is important to give kids a sense of contributing to what’s happening. Let them help when you are making your family plans for self-isolating. Ensure that they keep up communications via phone or internet with friends and family members who are important in their lives. If you are helping others, give them safe ways to help too.

Source: Australian Red Cross website.

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