Cupids Health

How to answer children/young people’s worries and questions about Coronavirus: Sample words to say


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Dealing with Coronavirus can be tough for everyone – kids, young people and adults – from all walks of life.  For children with “big feelings” and challenging life events, it can be even harder.

Here are some ideas about how to answer children or young people’s questions or respond to their worries.  A few general principles in how to do this are as follows:

  1. Try to ask a question or two before you respond to a child/teen’s concerns – you may be able to get more information about exactly what they are worried about and therefore answer more helpfully
    .

  2. Express care and sympathy rather than entirely dismissing all of their concerns

  3. Answer with a matter of fact, calm and confident voice and facial expressionIf you can’t do that, step away and say “I think I might just need some adult time for a moment, and I will come and talk to you again in a few minutes”.  Then take some time to talk to a friend/family member/take a deep breath and look after yourself.  Then come back to your child/teen and provide some answers.

  4. Remember if children/young people continue asking lots of questions which you have gone over with them before, it’s okay to put some limits on the time you spend talking about it with them.  If it is appropriate, you might say something like:  “That’s a problem for adults to solve and there are lots of clever adults working on that right now.  You don’t need to spend much time thinking about that”.  You might also say something like:  “We’ve spent enough time talking about this for now, it’s good for our brains and bodies to have a break from thinking about worrying things and problems, let’s go and do something else”.  At this point, gently try to distract the child/teen with another activity.

“I’m worried that school will close”

Possible extra questions to ask:

What would be the worst thing about that?
Is there anything you are worried will happen if the school closes?
Is there anything in particular that would make things better for you if school DID close?
Do you think there would be anything good about having some time away from school for a while?

Possible things to say (all of these need to be adjusted to fit the current facts/the age of the child/situation they are in):

I understand you being worried about that, everyone is having times when they feel a bit worried at the moment
For now, it looks like schools will stay open
If your school does close, XX will come and get you
If your school does close, then you will be able to do some learning with us at home
These are the other kinds of things we will do during the day if you are at home (providing structure)
It won’t be forever, just for a little while

“I’m upset that I can’t have my party/go to my sport game/go on my excursion”

Possible extra questions to ask:

What would be the worst thing about that?
What are you most upset/disappointed about?

Possible things to say (all of these need to be adjusted to fit the current facts/the age of the child/situation they are in):

I understand you feeling upset about that.  I’m really sorry you are going to miss that.  It’s very disappointing for you.
I’m wondering whether we can make a list of what else we could do during that time, and write it down – that might make you feel just a little better.
This won’t last forever – we will reschedule this/it will happen again later/it will start again later.  We don’t know exactly when but some time in the future.
Let’s think about who you could talk to using technology (facetime/zoom etc) play a game with online
The government/schools/ourselves cancelling these things for now means that doctors have more time to help people who get sick instead of them all getting sick together – and scientists have a bit more time to make medicines for Coronavirus.  You not having this event is a bit like you doing something very kind and important for the world. 

“I’m worried we won’t be able to get enough food”

Possible extra questions to ask:

Who told you/how did you hear that we might not be able to get enough food?
Is there any particular foods you are worried about?

Possible things to say (all of these need to be adjusted to fit the current facts/the age of the child/situation they are in):

The world has plenty of food for everyone.  It’s just that when people are worried, they sometimes buy more than they need. 
Soon the shops may be allowed to open for longer hours which will help everyone to take it in turns to buy the food they need.
Just because some shops don’t have very much food on one day – there are other shops with more food on other days.
We will have enough food for our family.

“I’m worried I will get sick with Coronavirus”

Possible extra questions to ask:

What makes you worried about that?
What would be the worst thing about that happening?
Is there anything else you are worried about in getting sick?
Are there any times of days/situations you are thinking about this?

Possible things to say (all of these need to be adjusted to fit the current facts/the age of the child/situation they are in):

This is what happens to most people who gets coronavirus:  they feel a bit hot, they have a cough, they feel tired and sometimes they have a sore body.  This lasts for a few days or a week and then they are completely better.  It’s like a cold or a mild flu.  It is very unlikely to hurt you too much, and you will just lie in bed and watch TV/read for a little while.
Young people are much less likely to get very sick from coronavirus than much older people.
There are a small number of young people who do get a bit more sick and it takes them a bit longer to get better.  We have excellent doctors and nurses who can help any kids or teens feel better if they do get quite sick.

“I’m worried I will get sick and then infect other people and/or close my school”

Possible extra questions to ask:

How might that happen?
What would be the worst thing about that?

Possible things to say (all of these need to be adjusted to fit the current facts/the age of the child/situation they are in):

If you get sick with Coronavirus, then it will not be your fault.
There will be lots of people who get a little sick with Coronavirus – and they will give it to lots of people – it won’t just be you.
No-one at your school has to know that you are a person with Coronavirus – the school will just tell people that “a student” at the school has been diagnosed with it.
All that will happen is they will close the school for a little while and then re-open it when it is clean.
If we stay home and wash our hands, then we might be able to avoid passing it on to other people

“I’m upset that I can’t see my grandparents/other significant older adults for now”

Possible extra questions to ask:

What would be the worst thing about that?
Is there something in particular about this which is especially upsetting?
Are you worried about how grandparents will go/be in this time, or just feeling sad about missing them?

Possible things to say (all of these need to be adjusted to fit the current facts/the age of the child/situation they are in):

I understand you feeling upset about this, it’s a bit upsetting for everyone
Let’s talk about how we can talk with grandma/grandpa in different ways (phone, technology, sending letters)
Let’s think about some fun things grandma/grandpa can do for now while they are having a break from seeing us 

“Who will look after me and where will I go if you/my parent gets sick with coronavirus?”

Possible extra questions to ask:

What makes you worried about this?
Is there anything else you are worried will happen if this happens?
Are there any times of days/situations you are thinking about this?

Possible things to say (all of these need to be adjusted to fit the current facts/the age of the child/situation they are in):

If I/your parent gets sick with coronavirus, because you live with me/them, the whole family will stay home together for a while.  This will make sure that there is enough time for the Coronavirus to go out of all of our bodies. 
You will not ever be left on your own.
If I/they get very sick and you need some doctors to help, you can call XXXX/this person (or 000) on the telephone and they will help you.

“I’m worried I will die”

Possible extra questions to ask:

What makes you worried about this?
Where did you hear that this might happen?
Are there any times of days/situations you are thinking about this?

Possible things to say (all of these need to be adjusted to fit the current facts/the age of the child/situation they are in):

In all of the countries across all of the world, almost no children or teenagers have gotten very sick or died from Coronavirus.
We have excellent doctors and nurses who can help any kids or teens feel better if they do get quite sick.

“I’m worried my grandparents will get sick and die”

Possible extra questions to ask:

What makes you worried about this?
Are there any times of days/situations you are thinking about this?

Possible things to say (all of these need to be adjusted to fit the current facts/the age of the child/situation they are in):

Grandpa/Nanna/X/Y is pretty healthy.
Grandpa/Nanna/X/Y is doing lots of things to stay healthy at the moment – for example they are…
We have excellent doctors and nurses who can help people feel better if they do get quite sick. 

Remember:

  • Check out what their concerns are first

  • Sympathise but have confident and calm face and voice

  • Provide a small amount of information

  • Do short periods of talking and then distract and refocus

I know there are many more questions and concerns children and teens might have, I will write another article next week with some more questions and answers – at this time we will also have ready (fingers crossed – it’s in the pipeline!) an animated video for children to watch on this issue.

Very best wishes in managing your health and own well-being and that of your children in this time.



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