Talking to children about COVID-19
Talking to children about Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Although it’s tempting to try and protect children from difficult topics, they are more likely to worry when they’re kept in the dark. Children and teenagers will be aware of what is happening but may not have all the facts they need to understand it.
These tips will help you communicate about Coronavirus with your child:
- Take time to talk and listen. Be clear that you are happy to answer any questions that they have. Be led by your child as they may not be that interested or want to know everything all at once. Try to answer any questions honestly but keep things in context e.g. “Sadly, some people do die, but the vast majority of people will recover, and children seem to be only mildly affected”.
- Reassure them that their own risk is very low but that we all need to ‘do our bit’ to look after people who might be very unwell. Underline how helpful they are being by following the rules about hygiene and social-distancing. Knowing we’re being altruistic helps us to bear the tough times.
- Give positive messages about everything you are doing as a family to keep yourselves safe. Talk about all the work people around the world are doing to find treatments and a vaccine.
- Keep explanations developmentally appropriate.
- Young children up to about age seven will need very simple explanations that relate to their own experiences. Explain that, like other germs, Coronavirus can spread between people and make them ill. But because Coronavirus is a new germ that we don’t know everything about, we need to take more care and so things might be a bit different for a while.
- Older children and tweens will want to know more. They may have heard partial explanations and ‘filled in the gaps’ themselves with their own ideas, so check what they already think they know about it.
- Give them an opportunity to talk about their feelings. Our instinct might be to ‘make it all better’, but it is normal to feel scared, sad and angry in the face of what’s happening. Tell them that what is happening is not normal but that their feelings are.
Sources of support
There are two useful documents regarding mental health and wellbeing which parents and carers may wish to look at:
- Guidance for parents and carers on supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
- Guidance for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19)
The following organisations offer information and support on mental health and wellbeing:
- Every Mind Matters
- Public Health England
- Child Bereavement UK and the Childhood Bereavement Network
- Youth Sport Trust and Sport England
- Young Minds
- Think Ninja
- Barnardo’s See, Hear, Respond Support Hub
Young people can get free, confidential support at any time from government-backed voluntary and community sector organisations by:
- texting SHOUT to 85258
- calling Childline on 0800 1111
- calling the Mix on 0808 808 4994
General – for parents
Call 116 123
UK Mental Health Charity with information and an online mutual support community
General – for young people
Telephone: 0808 802 6666
Text message: 07537 404 282
The FamilyLine service supports people who are dealing with family pressures in a new and innovative way by using a network of volunteers from across the country to support family members over the age of 18 through telephone calls, email, web chat and text message.
Family Lives (previously Parentline)
Call: 0808 800 2222
Family Lives offers a confidential and free helpline service for families in England and Wales (previously known as Parentline). for emotional support, information, advice and guidance on any aspect of parenting and family life. The helpline service is open 9am – 9pm, Monday to Friday and 10am – 3pm Saturday and Sunday.
Single Parent Helpline: 0808 802 0925
One Parent Families/Gingerbread is the leading national charity working to help lone parents and their children.
Call: 0300 123 7015
Grandparents Plus is the only national charity (England and Wales) dedicated to supporting kinship carers - grandparents and other relatives raising children who aren't able to live with their parents.
Helpful resources for talking to children about Coronavirus
A short book about Coronavirus for children under 7
Drs Chris and Xand explain what’s happening
Resources for children and young people with additional needs:
contains a link to the most up to date version of their “Easy Read” for young people and adults with learning difficulties