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How do we talk to children about Coronavirus?

Claudia Toxopeus

Having a meaningful conversation with young children about the current Coronavirus outbreak is proving a challenge for parents across New Zealand.

There is a lot of confusion amongst children as to why they can no longer go to school, nor see friends and family. The Covid-19 epidemic has left parents in a conundrum. How can they educate their children about what is happening in the world?

Amid the anxiety and fear of Covid-19, many parents feel at a loss when to comes to teaching their children about the virus and the practices that have been put into place because of it.

Tracey Fairhurst, a mother to three young children in East Auckland, said she was trying to find the balance between relaying the seriousness of the situation at hand, without upsetting her kids. 

"The main thing is not to freak them out and create panic. I think it’s important that I keep life at home as seemingly normal as possible," Fairhurst said.

University of Auckland child psychologist Dr Melanie Woodfield said depending on the age of the child, they may not need "knowledge" about the virus.

"Young children are likely to struggle, developmentally, with the invisible and intangible abstract nature of the virus, so trying to explain might be futile."

Instead, Woodfield recommended informing children how the virus might affect them directly.

"If a parent can deliver short repeated snippets of developmentally appropriate information, this is likely to be helpful."

Woodfield suggested phrases such as: "We will need a long holiday from kindy," and "We need to wash our hands more."

Help for parents is also coming in the form of entertainment. After several requests from fans, beloved children's band The Wiggles has released a new music video titled Social Distancing. The song mixes the importance of social distancing with music and funky dance moves.

"Social distancing, to save the world. Social distancing for all the boys and girls," The Wiggles sing.

Watch the video:

Meanwhile, in the popular science realm, Nanogirl, aka Dr Michelle Dickinson, has uploaded an informational video about Covid-19 specially for children.

Titled Coronavirus Explained! (for kids), the video, which has more than 225,000 views, simplifies what Coronavirus is and explains how children can help stop the spread of it.

"The Coronavirus, or Covid-19, that people are talking about, it has dangly bits that stick to our lungs. Our lungs help us breathe. And so people who get this type of Coronavirus, they have a shortness of breath and they struggle to breathe, as well as feeling very, very ill," Dickinson says in the video.

Watch the video: