How to talk to your child about coronavirus
Take the time to talk to your child and ask questions. It is important to listen, be calm and present, and let your child finish speaking. You can ask your child what they have heard about coronavirus and if it is something that they are particularly worried about. Children search for information online. Ask if they have read anything about the virus online today.
Answer your child’s questions with factual and accurate information from reliable official sources and from 1177 Vårdguiden. Try to be straightforward, clear and specific.
If your child has questions about those who are seriously ill, tell them that they are being cared for by clever doctors and nurses who are doing everything possible to help them. Tell your child too that many people are working to find out how the infection can be stopped and to develop a vaccine. You can also say that most people infected with the virus become completely healthy again.
Talk about the fact that it can be difficult to avoid checking the news all the time and agree on the proper level for doing so. Sit down with your child and talk about the news you have heard. One tip is to view the Lilla Aktuellt programme which is available on SVT Play.
Adults take responsibility
Tell your child that you will be responsible for keeping track of what is happening and that your child does not have to do that him/herself.
Prepare your child for the changes that will be coming, such as that some leisure activities will no longer be possible, that their parents may be at home more, that there will be fewer or no visits from and to friends, grandparents and other relatives, and that travel, birthday parties and similar meetings with people will not be possible. If your child is used to meeting their grandparents often, explain why this will no longer be possible for a period now.
Tell your child what they can do and what they need to do
Explain how people get infected (close contact with droplets from other people) and how to avoid getting infected (good hand hygiene, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and avoiding close contact with other people). Help your child to wash their hands properly – a good tip is to put up a note to this effect in the bathroom.
Remind your child that we are doing all this now to help prevent old people and those who already have another serious illness from becoming very ill. Everyone can and will need to help prevent the infection from spreading, and your child can also make an important contribution here.
Talk about what to do if someone in the family feels ill and gets sick. That it is important in that case to stay at home so as not to infect others. If it should be necessary to go into quarantine: explain what this means and discuss what you can do to make the best out of such a situation.
Talk with your child about what you can do together to help. Maybe there is an older relative or neighbour who needs practical help. Or someone who is alone in quarantine and needs to have contact via the internet every day. Helping and being involved in influencing the situation will strengthen your child’s sense of security and hope.
Explain that this situation will pass. Normality will return, it’s just that no one really knows exactly when.
Have separate conversations with younger children and young people
It can be good to have separate conversations with young children and teenagers so that the information can be adapted according to their age and so that they have the chance to ask their own questions.
Teenagers talk most often to other teenagers and may get a lot of information that may not be entirely accurate. Make yourself available and make it easier for them to talk to you too. Don’t forget that even the most sullen teenager may be anxious and need to talk to an adult.
It is important to follow the treatment plan for those experiencing psychological problems
If your child is being treated for psychological problems, it is important to stick to the treatment plan that has been drawn up for them. If your child takes medication, he/she should continue to do so as normal.
Contact your clinic if necessary and if you have any questions. This is especially important if you feel that your child’s mental state is deteriorating. The current focus on the prevention and treatment of coronavirus should not prevent you from seeking psychiatric care for your child if necessary.