Your Covid-19 questions answered

How can I best teach my child about Covid-19?

Making children feel safe is important during the pandemic. File image
Making children feel safe is important during the pandemic. File image
Image: REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread across the globe, it is important that children feel safe, loved, included and supported.

Raising children in “the new normal” is difficult and they are often aware of how the world is different because of the pandemic.

According to the UN Children's Fund (Unicef), parents and teachers play a crucial role in educating children about the pandemic and reassuring them.

“Sharing accurate information and science-based facts about Covid-19 will help diminish students’ fears and anxieties around the disease and support their ability to cope with any secondary affects in their lives,” it said of teachers.

It said any conversations or activities should always consider the specific needs of children and the guidance provided by local and/or national authorities such as the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the World Health Organisation.

Preschool and early primary school

“Focus on communicating good health behaviours, such as covering coughs and sneezes with the elbow and washing hands. One of the best ways to keep children safe from coronavirus and other diseases is to simply encourage regular handwashing, for at least 20 seconds. It doesn’t need to be a scary conversation. Develop a way to track how children are washing their hands and find ways to reward them for frequent/timely hand washing.

“Use puppets or dolls to demonstrate symptoms (sneezing, coughing, fever), what to do if children feel sick ( such as if their head or stomach hurts, or if they feel hot or extra tired), and how to comfort someone who is sick (cultivating empathy and safe caring behaviours).

“When it’s circle time, have children sit farther apart from one another by practising stretching their arms out or ‘flapping their wings’ — they should keep enough space between each other so that they are not touching their friends,” Unicef advises.

Older children

It is important to listen and answer any concerns that older children may have about the virus, emphasising that there is a lot we can do to keep ourselves and others safe.

“Encourage students to confront and prevent stigma. Discuss the reactions they may experience around discrimination, and explain that these are normal reactions in emergency situations. Encourage them to express and communicate their feelings, but also explain that fear and stigma make a difficult situation worse. Words matter, and using language that perpetuates existing stereotypes can drive people away from taking the actions they need to protect themselves.”

It also advised including relevant guidance from health authorities in your conversations with them about the virus and promoting facts about public health.


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