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Supporting kids through COVID-19

18 August 2020, Action for Change

Top tips for helping kids with changing guidelines

As Australia grapples with a second wave of COVID-19, children are again understandably scared and confused about the new directives. 

In Victoria, which has felt the worst impact of rising cases, many children are now at home from school or childcare, wearing masks outside and have limited outdoor freedom. Education and developmental psychologist Dr Julia Parsonson says parents can help children understand the changes without causing additional fear. 

It’s important for parents to explain what will be different, and explain why it’s happening at a level that is suitable for their age and understanding, and reassure them it’s so we can all stay safe

Dr Julia Parsonson

Tip 1: Taking fear away from masks     

Children may see people wearing cloth or disposable masks around their neighbourhood and be scared or worried. But masks can be a source of fun, rather than fear, says Julia. “Get some interesting patterns and colours and show kids masks can be just another accessory to an outfit.” 

Another way to make masks fun for kids is to show them how superheroes wear masks too.

Plenty of characters that children may have seen on TV or in the movies cover their face. You can encourage children to pretend to be a superhero by wearing a face mask or thinking about the family wearing masks as superheroes, all doing their bit to keep each other safe.

Dr Julia Parsonson

Children may be confused about why some adults and older kids are wearing them, while others including younger children won’t be wearing them. “Simple messaging is best,” says Julia. “It’s important to reiterate that some children might wear a mask, some children might not wear a mask. This is OK. Everyone’s parents tells them what they think is best.”

Tip 2: Staying inside keeps us safe

“It’s a difficult situation for adults to understand the new rules, let alone children” says Julia. “A lot of them have been removed from their routine of school or childcare, or not allowed to see grandparents or other friends. That together with parents who may be stressed out, can make for an unsettling home environment.”

It’s important to speak to children honestly and with terminology they can understand. Parents should be calm and proactive in communicating what’s changed, why, and how long they may be away from school or childcare.

Dr Julia Parsonson

With increased focus on staying inside, it’s important to find new ways kids can keep playing and learning at home. “Being stuck inside can be lonely for kids,” says Julia. “A range of activities from imaginative play to online playgroups will keep them occupied, playing and learning while they’re at home.”

Tip 3: Dealing with strong emotions

Just as parents are, children will also be dealing with strong emotions from different restrictions put in place over the country. Whether it’s anger, fear or sadness, letting children express their emotions is OK, says Julia. “We shouldn’t pretend that it’s not going to be hard and that getting through this won’t take some sacrifice.”

“Let kids know it’s OK to talk to adults about how they feel, and how they need help getting through this tenuous time.”

Above all, says Julia, “be kind to each other.”

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