The coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone in different ways – and one problem that the crisis may pose for parents is attempting to explain the situation to their children.
With that in mind, we asked four of the presenters of Newsround – Ricky and Leah Boleto, Martin Dougan and new starter Shanequa Paris – to share some tips on how to discuss the issue with kids, as well as some strategies for making sure that young people don’t panic too much and maintain some semblance of a normal life.
Here’s what they all had to say…
“This is something we’ve touched on before with climate anxiety, and all these other things that kids are worried about. We say to parents and to young people, this is something you won’t be able to fix, and you don’t need to worry about what’s going on all around the world.
“You just need to worry about what’s going on in your kitchen, in your house, in your garden. Do what you can in your four walls, to stop this from spreading and to talk about it and have that open conversation. You don’t need to be worried about fixing this, other people are trying to sort that out.
“What you can do is look after your elders, remain in contact with your friends and family. And if your children do have any questions, they can send them into Newsround and we’ll get doctors to answer them.”
“If you as a parent are finding it hard, don’t give yourself a hard time if you don’t have all the answers because even the top scientists in this country don’t have all the answers. However, there’s lots of things that you can do to reassure – like making sure your kids wash their hands.
“But also go in the kitchen, put the radio on and have a dance with everyone. I mean, it really does de-stress – because even I find it difficult sometimes, there’s rolling news on and updates on your phone, and then at the end of the day, you’re like, ‘Whoa, that’s so much information to take.’
“But, you know, step away, go and have a dance in the kitchen with everyone, write a letter to your grandparent and send it in the post, think about how you get time to spend with your mum and dad or your carers where you can go in the garden – if you’re lucky enough to have a garden – and spend some time outdoors.
“I think it’s just about taking a step back from it and seeing what benefit you can get from right now, because it’s really such a quiet time, isn’t it? We’re not used to it and that’s why some people are finding it a bit difficult, but you’ve got to take the positives out of it – and if all else fails clean your bedroom!”
“Well, I’ve got a nine-year-old daughter myself. And a couple of days ago she got quite emotional because she’s so used to going to her dance classes, she loves her school, she loves her schoolmates, and then all of a sudden, everything’s changing round about them.
“And I found it quite difficult to start to try and get my message across, to try and speak to her about it. I suppose in my experience, I know it sounds like a cliche, but I would genuinely refer kids to CBBC and Newsround. I’m being serious when I say that, that’s always my go to with my daughter now because sometimes it’s difficult – because parents are right in the thick of it and you’re worried about things yourself.
“It’s hard for a parent sometimes to take their emotional feelings out of the equation and try and talk about things in a clear way. And I think when it comes to Newsround the best tools that I can say is keep talking to your kid about it, don’t try and keep a secret. Just try and keep it as short and concise, but stick to the facts and reassure them that we’re sticking to the government guidelines.
“But then also, I think, it’s really important to try and keep each other engaged physically and emotionally and mentally. To do jigsaw puzzles together, make the kids make the bed in the morning, make them make their own breakfast, if they can.
“Then do a little bit exercise, you know, do puzzles, do games on the tablets, all that sort of stuff that you can do just to pass the time and keep hobbies going. And sticking to the guidelines you can still go for a little walk, get some fresh air get out the house just round the block wherever it is that you live.
“And then lastly, I think it’s hugely important to try and communicate with loved ones and family members. Like if you can FaceTime them, if you can talk on the phone, then that is so vital. Even if it’s through a computer screen, it still brings a little bit of normality in and it’s a familiar face -so I think if you can stick to those points then that is the best you can do.”
“I would say make it fun. Because sometimes news can seem like doom and gloom but even sad news can be done in a fun and interesting way. It depends on different things that you’re focusing on, so I’d say pay attention to what’s the story that you want to tell.
“And always I’d say, write down the key things that they need to know. And then, build around from that, because sometimes we can talk in a lot of mumbo jumbo without having actually got the gist of it. Like, what is it that you’re trying to say? So yeah, I’d say just focus on the key points.
“And then make it fun and make it interactive as well. And allow children to be inquisitive, and make it practical for real life as well to make it as relatable as possible for them to understand.”