Communication is important
There is a common misconception that talking with children and young people about a topic such as COVID-19 may increase their anxiety. However, research suggests that it usually fill in the blanks with their own imagination – often imagining something far worse as the opposite effect. For children, not having information is scary. Many children will than the truth. For older children, they may take to the internet for their answers, which can be misleading and overwhelming.
Children and young people need to feel informed and safe. Discussing COVID-19 openly with your children and answering their questions calmly will provide the opportunity to reassure them that they are safe and dispel any false information they may have heard in the media or through rumours.
Continuing to have conversations with your child about COVID-19 will help to minimise the anxiety they may feel when they hear new and sometimes contradictory information or advice.
Tell children the facts
Scary headlines attract attention and help sell newspapers but they don’t always tell the whole truth. Ensuring you’re armed with facts will help keep conversations calm, considered and constructive.
In discussions with children, it is important to emphasise that:
- Australia has slowed the spread of COVID-19 by putting in place measures such as physical distancing
- most people who contract COVID-19 will only have mild symptoms and they will recover easily. Only a small minority of people may become very ill
- we are lucky to live in a country where children are able to access prompt and high-quality medical attention
- the risk of serious illness for people their age who are in good health is low
- vaccinations are safe and available to everyone aged 5 years or older.
Sharing this information should help reassure children that there is no immediate risk to themselves, their friends or their family.
View our video,
My Name is Coronavirus, with your child.
Explain what efforts are being made to contain the virus
In Australia, the government is continuing to carefully monitor and actively manage the situation – this is why advice for how to stay safe is updated often. Children should be confident that anyone who has the virus and needs medical attention will receive high-quality treatment quickly in our world class hospitals.
From time-to-time, the government or their school may ask everyone to wear face masks. When parents are visiting the school or attending events, they may also be asked to sit apart from other people or families. All of these actions are important to stop the virus spreading.
Vaccination is one of the most important ways we can reduce the spread of disease. Reassure children that COVID-19 vaccinations are safe, available to children aged 5 years and over, and are the best way to protect them, their family and their friends. The COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 page and the how to speak to kids about COVID-19 vaccines factsheet (PDF, 1.5MB) provide useful information for parents.
Restricting exposure to news and social media
It is normal for children and young people to get overwhelmed by the constant discussions about COVID-19, which can lead to increased worry and anxiety. If parents and carers notice their children becoming anxious or scared due to the amount of information they are hearing about COVID-19 on the news or through social media, it may be necessary to encourage and assist them to take a break from the 24-hour news cycle and to focus on other things.
Focus attention away from COVID-19
Encourage children to engage in things at home that help them feel physically and emotionally safe (for example, listening to music, playing a favourite game with the family or doing some exercise in the home).
A great way to focus children’s attention to other things and decrease their anxiety is to include
wellbeing activities (PDF, 6.4MB) into their day. You can find suggested activities in the wellbeing activities booklet on the department’s website.
It is also particularly important for children and young people to feel close to their immediate family and to continue to communicate with those people outside the family who are helpful to their wellbeing.
Offer practical advice
Tell your children what you can all do to help slow the spread of COVID-19, including:
- following the Queensland Government’s guidelines
- staying at home if unwell
- coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a clean tissue
- keeping hands clean by washing them regularly with soap and water or hand sanitiser
- avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Resources to share with children
Watch our video,
My Name is Coronavirus, with your children.
There are a
range of other resources available to help young children understand and cope with the impacts of COVID-19 and other emergency situations.