🕘 3 minutes reading time 

With the Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) all over the news and on everyone’s lips, you may be experiencing some fears about the virus affecting your family’s health. If you are worried, you can bet your child is too.

While the high rates of infection may put you on the edge, you can help your child to allay any fears with the following tips:

1. Stay calm
Firstly, don’t panic! Our anxieties and fears may unintentionally transfer to our children, as they naturally take their cue from adults around them.

Fight fear with facts by staying informed and updated on the Covid-19 situation. Check out the Gov.Sg or Ministry of Health (MOH) websites for the latest updates, and learn more about the virus and the precautions to take. This will enable you to answer your child’s questions and help you avoid being consumed by fear.

2. Tailor your approach
Talk to your child about the Covid-19 situation, but speak in a way that your child understands.

For preschool children, explain about the virus by relating it to the hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) that they are familiar with, suggested Dr Quah Saw Han, Director and Senior Clinical Psychologist at The Affinity People, member of MSF's Advisory Panel on Parenting.

“Ask your child what he/she knows about HFMD, and what their teachers need to do every morning when they attend school/child-care centre.”

Primary school-aged children may be curious about any Covid-19 updates, such as how the virus infects humans and the number of infected cases; while youths may benefit from a frank conversation about the virus.

For some children, it may be comforting to know that doctors around the world are working hard to find solutions, and that hospitals and doctors are well equipped to care for those who fall sick.

“Avoid lengthy and detailed explanations or discussions. Most adults can pay full attention for 15 to 30 minutes, but children have far shorter attention spans,” said Dr Quah.

3. Empower them
Possibly the most practical thing to do is to remind your child about their role in fighting the virus. This includes practising good hygiene, staying hydrated and keeping their immunity up by eating well and getting enough sleep.

“Explain the importance of good habits like washing our hands regularly with soap, using tissue when sneezing or coughing, throwing litter and soiled tissue into rubbish bins, and keeping the environment clean. These habits are good for all times – not just during this period,” said Dr Quah.

Finally, how about looking at the Covid-19 from a different perspective? Two young girls had chosen to cheer on healthcare workers instead of being paralysed by the fear of being infected by the virus. They are Rui’en and Rui Rui who are ten- and six-years old respectively, and daughters of Tong Yee, a Families for Life Council member and Director/Co-Founder of The Thought Collective.

They came up with a plan to use their own money to buy breakfast and pen encouraging notes on the food boxes, before delivering it to tired healthcare workers fighting the Covid-19 virus in a hospital.

Reflecting on this, Tong Yee said:
“In crisis we do two things:
Support our society and community.
Teach the next generation how to do the same.”