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Wellbeing – My child won’t listen or talk to me

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It is understandable that with the global spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) we feel vulnerable and at times confused about how best to respond. Parents may especially be ruminating over how they choose to protect and support their child/ren, not only from the virus itself, but from the fear, worry and at times panic that can be associated with the virus.

The following are some suggestions that may help inform your choices:

  • Open communication – choosing to talk to your child about the disease means that you have the opportunity as their caregiver to provide your child with factual and age-appropriate information about the situation and offer any reassurance if required. It means the child has the opportunity to ask you their questions, express their fears and worries to you and for them to be addressed. Remember, that this may need to be a conversation that needs to be revisited as the situation evolves.
  • Ensure that you allocate adequate time for the conversation and that you are calm when having the conversation. Your child will look to you and your response as a barometer to measure their own reaction.
  • Start by asking your child what they know and understand about Coronavirus. This can help guide your conversation and helps you to address any misconceptions or concerns that they may have about the disease.
  • Be clear and focus on the facts. Try to avoid going into detail or giving too much information. Especially with younger children.
  • Reassure them that as their parent, you and the other adults in their lives (like their teachers and Principal) are keeping informed about the disease and making decisions to safeguard everyone’s health and well-being. Provide your child with the opportunity to take an active role in keeping themselves (and others) safe. This gives the child a sense of control and promotes resilience. Explain to the child that by choosing the following actions, they are choosing to be safe.
  • Washing your hands with soapy water for 20 seconds (or sing the Happy Birthday song twice) after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food; and
  • Following cough and sneeze etiquette i.e. covering your mouth and nose every time you cough or sneeze. Using a disposable tissue to cover your mouth or nose if possible and immediately disposing of the tissue afterward. If no tissue is available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve. This prevents your hands from becoming contaminated with cold or flu viruses.
  • Try to keep your child’s daily structure as normal as possible such as mealtimes, bedtimes, learning times.
  • Try to minimise your child’s exposure to the news. We know how the media can sensationalise news items. For children, it is hard to put this into context so hearing updates or seeing images can escalate children’s fears. Choosing to listen to the news after the children are in bed, for instance, is preferable.
  • It is understandable that we need to connect with one another in our community, to talk through our fears and concerns with others. However, be mindful of your children overhearing your conversations regarding coronavirus. As their parent, your child will look to you to provide that sense of safety. They need to hear consistent positive messages from you or may become worried you are ‘hiding’ things from them or ‘not being honest’. 
  • Practice self-compassion. Be kind to yourself so you can be kind to your children and others.
  • Please see the following link for advice from Dr Michael Carr-Gregg on this topic. It is an excellent resource – https://schooltv.me/wellbeing_news/special-report-coronavirus

Other resources