Adults have a key role in helping children understand what is going on with Covid-19 but different age groups need different approaches to make them feel safe, the British Psychological Society said today.
The Society has published an online advice guide – Talking to children about illness – that explains how children react to illness, what parents and carers should look for and how they might best approach talking to children about Covid-19.
Joint author of the report, Clinical Psychologist Dr Helen Griffiths said: “Most of what children hear about Covid-19 is intended for adults. But because children don’t understand risk in the same way that adults do many children are unsure of how worried they should be.
“Even so, many children are very worried indeed – about themselves, their parents, grandparents, their pets, and their friends. Our guide can help adults to address these worries and present facts in a way that children can understand and respond to.”
Dr Griffiths and Dr Katie Hunt say the guidance makes three main points:
- Feeling safe is essential for good psychological development, and adults have a key role in helping children to feel safe through their own actions and words.
- Children do not think or behave as little adults; a child’s level of development will have a fundamental impact on how they understand illness, how worried they might be, and how they might behave as a result.
- Adults need to tailor how they speak to children about illness based on their developmental stage.
The guidance includes detail on typical behaviour across four stages of childhood development: 0-3 years, 4-7 years, 7-12 years, and 13+. Each section summarises the level of development children have reached at each stage and some typical things they might do or say. It then provides some approaches that will help children understand, feel safe and hopefully remove unnecessary worry.
“Covid-19 is dominating conversation, the media and has completely changed homelife for nearly everyone. Children deserve the truth, but adults need to take care that this is delivered in a way that provides both information and reassurance.”
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Notes to Editors
- The BPS guidance can be accessed online at bps.org.uk/news-and-policy/advice-talking-children-about-illness.
- The co-authors of this report are Clinical Psychologist Dr Helen Griffiths and Clinical Psychologist Katie Hunt