CHILDLINE ADVICE: How to talk to your children about coronavirus issues

As calls to Childline about the coronavirus have trebled in the last week, I want to address the situation and provide some advice on how we can be talking to kids about the virus.

It's important to talk to your children about the virus. Pic: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
It's important to talk to your children about the virus. Pic: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

It’s important to keep a balance of helping children understand the facts, as well as providing emotional support, and keeping ourselves afloat too.There have been over 900 counselling sessions with children and young people about Coronavirus so far, nearly two thirds of which took place between the March 16 and 22 as parents started working from home and school closures were announced.Support for children worried about the pandemic hit a peak on Wednesday March 18 – the day the Prime Minister confirmed UK schools would shut – with Childline delivering 121 counselling sessions on the issue in just one day.Common issues children are discussing include fear and anxiety, exacerbated by the disruption of their normal routines due to school closures, as well as the inescapable 24/7 news coverage of thevirus.This is difficult to process as an adult, but it can be even more challenging for a child. At this transitional point in their lives, the extra pressure caused by Covid-19 can be a struggle for young people to cope with.One girl told Childline: “This virus has brought my anxiety up more than anything else in my life.Everyone is saying we’re going to die from it or we’re going to run out of food.”With news channels showing pictures of empty shops and charts of death rates, it is not surprising that young people are picking up on the situation and worrying. As I’ll discuss later, this makes it more important for us to respond to their concerns in a calm and collected manner.It’s important not to shy away from talking about the coronavirus with your children. They may have already picked up snippets of information and even though they haven’t discussed it with you, may be wondering what it means for them and people they care about. Therefore, it is important to be calm, honest and informed when talking to them about news related to the coronavirus.Begin the conversation by asking them what they already know about it. Reassure them that you are going to listen to them, remove any distractions, and mute any sounds so that you can give your fullattention.Try not to interrupt when they talk to you about it, just let them say what they need to say. If they address fears, be sure not to dismiss them. Children will be taking in a lot of information now, and anxious minds can create a variety of worries.When they’ve finished, calmly explain the facts of the situation. You can find these through NHS and World Health Organisation sites, with advice on what we know about Covid-19 and how to help protect yourself from it. It’s important to be honest and tailor what you say to their maturity.Lastly, here at Childline we know that it can be hard trying to help a child through challenging times like this. So, we recommend that you encourage them to use Childline’s online message boards to talk to other young people about how they’re feeling. They can also draw pictures and play games to relax and have fun.Our counsellors are trained to support children through their worries or concerns, and children can speak to us for free using the Childline website, or by calling 0800 1111. We have more than a thousand volunteers around the country who are ready to help young people get through this difficult period in their lives.