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for educators & parents

Coronavirus

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.

 

  • Listen to and take their concerns seriously, show empathy.  Tell them it is normal to feel concerned but help them see that the press only report on things that aren’t an everyday occurrence and can make events sound sensational and frightening. 
  • Be aware of your own behaviour. It’s important that parents and carers understand the effect their own behaviour can have on young people. If you’re visibly upset or react in a way that suggests you’re fearful, they’ll take their cues from you. Just remember to stick to what we know about the outbreak.
  • Tell them the facts. Ensure you’re armed with facts, this will help keep Coronavirus conversations calm, considered, and constructive. So, what do we know and how much should you share with a young* person? 

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.

  • Explain what efforts are being made to contain the virus. Chinese authorities have taken significant measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Travel in and out of the affected areas has been restricted, and scientists are working to develop a vaccine. It has been reported that a vaccine will be available by the end of May. In the UK, the government is carefully monitoring the situation and although the risk of infection in China is high, officials at the Department of Health say the risk to the public in UK is moderate.  

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:

  • Epidemic – a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.
  • Pandemic – an infectious disease which has spread throughout one country or globally.
  • Virus – Viruses are a type of germ. Viruses cause colds, chicken pox, measles, flu, and many other diseases. Unfortunately, antibiotics don’t work on viruses like they do on bacteria. Wash your hands often to help prevent the spread of viruses, especially before you eat and after you use the bathroom.
  • Coronavirus – According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) coronaviruses are a group of viruses which produce symptoms similar to that of flu. Symptoms can range from a runny nose, cough, sore throat and fever, but can also escalate to pneumonia. Coronavirus gets its name from the word ‘corona’ which means crown in Latin.

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:

  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze (sneezing into the crook of your arm is better than sneezing into your hand if you don’t have a tissue at the ready)
  • Keep hands clean by washing them regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based gel
  • Avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Avoid close contact with anyone displaying symptoms such as a fever or a cough

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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