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Supporting children’s mental health

Although it’s tempting to try and protect children from difficult topics, they are more likely to worry when they’re kept in the dark. Children and teenagers will be aware of what is happening but may not have all the facts they need to understand it. These tips will help you communicate about Coronavirus with your child:

  • Take time to talk and listen. Be clear that you are happy to answer any questions that they have. Be led by your child as they may not be that interested or want to know everything all at once. Try to answer any questions honestly but keep things in context e.g. “Sadly, some people do die, but the vast majority of people will recover, and children seem to be only mildly affected”
  • Reassure them that their own risk is very low but that we all need to ‘do our bit’ to look after people who might be very unwell. Underline how helpful they are being by following the rules about hygiene and social-distancing. Knowing we’re being altruistic helps us to bear the tough times
  • Give positive messages about everything you are doing as a family to keep yourselves safe. Talk about all the work people around the world are doing to find treatments and a vaccine
  • Keep explanations developmentally appropriate:
    • Young children up to about age seven will need very simple explanations that relate to their own experiences. Explain that, like other germs, Coronavirus can spread between people and make them ill. But because Coronavirus is a new germ that we don’t know everything about, we need to take more care and so things might be a bit different for a while
    • Older children and tweens will want to know more. They may have heard partial explanations and ‘filled in the gaps’ themselves with their own ideas, so check what they already think they know about it
    • Teenagers will have a similar capacity to understand what’s going on as adults. They will need calm, factual information and opportunities to talk through their worries and disappointments
  • Give them an opportunity to talk about their feelings. Our instinct might be to ‘make it all better’, but it is normal to feel scared, sad and angry in the face of what’s happening. Tell them that what is happening is not normal but that their feelings are. Look for something positive in the news locally or nationally to show how others are managing to keep their spirits up during this tricky time
  • Childline have ideas, activities and games to promote calm, including yoga and games to help your child let their worries go: 

There are several documents below that you may find useful. One is a child-friendly information leaflet that might support your discussions with children. There is also guidance from the LA attached with further information and signposting websites for further reading if needed.

Wiltshire Council has also set up a dedicated hub to take phone calls from people who need support during the ongoing COVID-19 situation. The Wiltshire Wellbeing Hub is available to anyone who is struggling during this difficult time, and the team can signpost you to where additional help is available in your local area – with hundreds of community groups set up across the county providing invaluable assistance. They can also support with deliveries of food and other essentials. People can get in touch with the hub by calling 0300 003 4576 and it’s available from 8am – 8pm Monday – Friday and 10am – 4pm Saturday and Sunday or via email.