An epidemic can be a scary time for parents and children alike. Last week the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern and the UK confirmed its first two cases of infection on Friday so it’s only natural to feel a sense of unease.
But we need to remain calm because many young people are worried by what they’re hearing on the news, and the daily updates are alarming. To save them (and yourself) from unnecessary anxiety, there are a few simple things that you can say and do.
So here are some pointers for keeping young people calm and holding a panic-free conversation about Coronavirus.
The focus of the outbreak is in China, where 90% of infections are and the majority of deaths have occurred (generally among those in poor health and the elderly). To put it into more perspective for your young people, the estimated population of China on 1st January 2020 was 1,408,526,449 people.
There have only been two confirmed cases of the new Coronavirus in the UK; no-one has died.
Sharing this information should help reassure your children that there is no immediate risk to themselves, their friends, or their family.
Most modern countries are prepared to deal with emergencies such as this, the UK is particularly well-placed, and it already has medical facilities on stand-by to treat patients who are at risk of carrying the virus. Young people should be confident that any confirmed cases will be isolated and treated quickly.
Explain words to them that they may not have heard before:
Offer practical advice:
For the time being the easiest way to reduce the risk of being affected by flu viruses of any sort (including the common cold) is to be conscientious and considerate:
These are easy habits for young people to adopt and should help them feel as though they’re able to avoid getting a cold or flu. Please be mindful that, currently, there is a cough virus with a temperature going around schools and unless your young person has visited or been in direct contact with someone from mainland China then these are most likely to be common seasonal illnesses and not Coronavirus related.
Finally I think a conversation about xenophobia would be a good idea as we don’t want bullying of children coming to UK schools from China to become prevalent.
Events like this can be very scary for young people so focus on the known facts rather than fixating on worst-case scenarios; this will allow your child to process the situation and keep it in perspective. However worried you may feel, do your best to keep your concerns to yourself and make sure your child understands that you will do everything in your power to keep them — and yourself — safe.
*Statistics accurate as of 6.2.20
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