COVID-19 conversations with children

Rear view shot of a mother speaking with her young daughter

ACECQA’s General Manager, Strategy, Communications and Consistency, Michael Petrie, shares insights and learnings to support conversations with children.

All of us here at ACECQA are focusing our efforts on working with governments to provide the children’s education and care sector and families with up to date and reliable information about Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Whether that be health advice, information regarding financial sustainability for services, or advice for families on what activities they can do at home with their children, we are here to support you as best as we can throughout this period.

Talking to children about COVID-19 and what to expect going forward is critically important and would be a current priority for all parents and families.

Every parent knows the personalities of their children, especially how they react to changing circumstances. The coming months will be a test of the resilience of all of our community, not just our children.

Each child or age group will have their own level of awareness, and it is important to answer their questions honestly so they have the level of reassurance they may need.

On this point, I’d like to share a discussion my wife and I had with our children about COVID-19.

Following last month’s government announcements regarding travel restrictions and closing restaurants/venues, my wife and I decided it was important to have a conversation with our children about what was happening… but, more importantly, what was to come.

Not exactly knowing where their respective level of awareness was at – even though we had briefly discussed ‘the virus’ with them – we started with the basics of what COVID-19 is and the health issues associated with it.

Both of my children are in primary school, with a ‘we already know this’ attitude, and they told us their teachers had discussed the virus and the importance of hand washing, covering mouth/nose when coughing or sneezing and keeping a level of distance between people.

Starting with the basics was good, as it resulted in them asking us questions about their school closing and online classes until holidays started. We replied that, at this point schools weren’t closing, but if they did, their teachers could provide online lessons for them to complete at home until school holidays started.

I’d love to be able to report that they were happy with this answer – but the groan we received was exactly what we expected!

We quickly turned the conversation to what we really wanted to focus on… and this was to outline what was likely to happen in our house and community over the next few months.

We explained that to help limit the spread of COVID-19, there would need to be a number of changes to how we lived. Mum and Dad would probably be working from home for the next little while, they wouldn’t be able to play their team sports on the weekend, we couldn’t go out to restaurants or the movies, they wouldn’t be able catch up for play dates with their friends, and their grandparents would no longer be able to fly across and stay with us as planned.

This was the confronting bit of the conversation and the part they didn’t really understand.

A lot of questions followed, so we did our best to explain why COVID-19 meant there needed to be fundamental changes to their, and everyone’s, way of living for the time being.

We explained that we all had to do our part, but that it wasn’t all bad news. There were alternatives we could explore as a family – we could chat to friends and grandparents over the internet, all four of us could play more games at home together (yes, including PlayStation!), we could have movie nights and our own weekly sporting competitions in the backyard (my knees willing!).

While we couldn’t give them the definitive answer as to when things would be back to normal, they did, for the time being at least, seem reassured that everything was going to be different for a while and that’s ok.

My wife and I know this is just the start of the many conversations we will have with our children over the coming months, and they know to come and talk to us if they do become worried about anything. There are no silly questions during this time, and keeping open conversations running to mythbust any fears that might develop is very healthy.

As I mentioned at the start, every parent knows their child and how to talk with them. Different age groups have different levels of understanding of the world around them.

So, if you are looking for tips on how to engage in these conversations, we will be sharing advice from experts via ACECQA’s family focused StartingBlocks.gov.au on its website and Facebook page.

Services can access the latest information, support and guidance about COVID-19 on the ACECQA website. You may also wish to share these resources with the families at your service:

Go well.

Michael Petrie

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