It is understandable that there is a lot of concern in relation to the COVID-19 virus. This is new to all of us.
The actions of government in relation to closing schools, creches, colleges, etc, is a positive step to contain the virus but may have caused alarm to some children.
Furthermore, the symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, breathing difficulties / shortness of breath, fever / high temperature) are similar to that of Influenza so concerns may be raised even though a person may just have a common cold.
It is really important to recognise that your children will have some awareness of what is happening but some of what they have heard may be misinformation.
It is important that parents and carers keep lines of communication open with children and young people, keeping to the facts (from reliable / official sources), remaining calm and using age-appropriate language in order to allay their fears.
There are some key facts to note:
- Even if we do contract the virus, it is likely that we will recover without any complication
- 80 per cent of those who get the COVID-19 virus experience a mild illness and are generally well within 5 – 14 days
- While 20 per cent of those who contract the virus experience more severe forms, these tend to be elderly people or those with underlying medical issues / illnesses
- COVID-19 is not as infectious as other diseases – eg. If someone contracts the measles they typically pass the virus onto 14 or 15 other people. With COVID-19, this figure is reduced to 2 or 3 people
- Symptoms usually appear within 14 days of contact with / exposure to the virus. It is in these situations that people are asked to self-isolate for a period of 14 days
- Present the facts to children and allay their fears
- Don’t feed into alarmist messaging
- Keep things optimistic – ‘young people like you are less likely to get the virus and even if you do it will probably feel like a cold’
- Develop their understanding that older people and people with other illnesses may be more at risk of getting the virus and that we all need to do our best to ensure that we keep our hands clean and follow the guidance of health officials to stop the spread of the virus
- Limit any physical contact between children and grandparents at this time
- Use age-appropriate language. Young children will not understand terms such as quarantine and transmission, but they are more likely to understand words like ‘germs’ or ‘bugs’
- Teach proper handwashing technique
For the most up-to-date information and guidance around COVID-19, please see the HSE’s official website here.