Why is it here? Where did it come from? Did someone actually eat a bat? Can I still share my friends’ toys? If I cough, does that mean I have it? Why can’t I see Grandma?
No doubt, if you have a young person in your life, you have had a myriad of questions thrown your way. If you are a parent, teacher, carer or guardian or anyone else who works with young people – you’re incredible and a total superhero in my eyes.
It’s hard to know how to approach these conversations or how to answer some of these harder questions, especially when as adults, we’re still wrapping our own heads around it with new information coming out most days that we are processing ourselves. What is important to focus on, is ensuring your young person feels they can talk to you about what it is that might be bothering them or things they may be curious about.
There isn’t an exact science or formula for handling these questions, but what we do know, is that it’s important not to ignore it and those young people feel empowered to help. This help could be as simple as better understanding good hygiene to assist in keeping their family and friends safe.
Children are incredibly perceptive and will often pick up on the emotions of the adults in their lives. With this being said, if we aren’t talking about Coronavirus and avoiding it as a topic of conversation, this could make it seem more serious and scarier than it needs to be.
Dr Michelle Dickinson has an amazing YouTube video where she uses a soft toy to assist in explaining COVID-19 – answering many of the common questions children may have. Her advice in a recent article in The Age was for parents to employ similar techniques at home.
As a teacher, most days, I am having conversations with young people who are expressing their fears, confusion and anxiety about this virus – something they are still trying to process as much as we are. The overwhelming feedback from students has been gratitude for taking the time to talk through any questions or concerns they have and invite them to be a part of, and contribute to, that conversation.
We are currently inundated with negative news stories, so balancing out those fears and acknowledging the information children are receiving through conscious consumption and otherwise is essential dialogue to promote resilience and understanding. A few things I’ve found really helpful when navigating these conversations with young people are:
- Being honest, but not giving too much ‘extra’ information.
- Keeping my language simple and my tone neutral.
- Letting them know they are not alone in how they are feeling.
- If there is something I can’t answer, offering to research it together.
- Focusing on what we can control, rather than what we can’t.
It’s a different world out there as we learn to navigate this ‘new normal’, and supporting our young people in the best way we know how is going to be fundamental in protecting their mental health and well-being.
In response to the Stage, 4 restrictions in Melbourne and the remote learning landscape young people are navigating, I wrote a children’s book titled ‘We’re All In This Together’ which is due for release in September 2020. This book has been designed with the intention to help facilitate conversations in classrooms and at home using the power of storytelling to promote unity and build resilience.