Ultimate guide on how to help children understand COVID-19 and overcome fear

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing everyone to sit at home aside healthcare workers and other essential service workers. Now that you have been working remotely from home, some of your curious kids must have been asking you why you've not been going to the office. They know the only time they see you is during weekends.

Some want to know why their schools have been shut and why normal life has been disrupted, they can't go to places of worship, birthday parties and the cinema and they want to know why everything is on hold. This is the time to step in and do some of the works you pay their schools to do. It's time to give them good information about what is happening without creating fear in them and also douse existing fear.

Here is a guide on how to help children understand COVID-19 and erase panic:

1. Discuss COVID-19 with your children in an honest and age-appropriate manner, this will ease their anxiety.

2. Avoid attaching the pandemic to any ethnicity or nationality.

3. In your explanation, be empathetic to those infected, in and from any country. Let them understand that those with the disease have not done anything wrong and are not suffering for their sins.

4. Make it clear to them that it is a new disease so people in charge – governments, scientists and doctors – are asking everyone to stay at home in order help to slow down the virus while they're busy making medicine that will help.

5. Give them clear information about how to reduce the risk of being infected by washing hands thoroughly and often with water and soap; using tissues when sneezing or coughing and throwing them away in a bin immediately and try to avoid contact with people who are unwell.

6. If you've been a dreaded parent, uncle or aunt, this is your chance to be a role model. Answer their questions honestly, like you truly care and try to use simple language depending on their age and ability to understand.

7. Children observe adults' behaviours and emotions for cues on how to manage their own emotions, avoid watching, reading or listening to news that makes you panic or distressed in the presence of children.

8. Get factual information at regular intervals from WHO, Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), the Federal and State Ministries of Health, and credible news platforms, in order to help you distinguish facts from rumours and provide children with facts.

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