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  1. ITV Report

Coronavirus: How should I tell my children about Covid-19?

The government has introduced a series of emergency measures to battle the virus. Credit: PA

Britons are having to adapt to new ways of living amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Many are working from home, following government advice to avoid interactions with others and employ social distancing. Many families are having to self-isolate, facing the prospect of losing loved ones, which no doubt brings difficult questions for parents from their young ones.

So, how should parents deal with the big questions about family and spreading the virus?

Dr Max Davie, the officer for health improvement at Royal College of Paedatrics and Child Health, says parents should talk to children but not to dramatise the situation.

Speaking from Oxfordshire, where he is currently having to self-isolate with his children, he said: "Most kids sort of know what is going on. I think the messages for children is that they are broadly safe - even if they get the virus. Their job is to stop other people from getting it.

"Tell them in the context of a chat and don't dramatise it. You'll need to say in order to limit the spread, we'll need to limit gatherings. That might mean spending a lot more time with online friends, if you want to."

Depending on the age of children will change the content of that conversation, he told ITV News.

"It very much varies on their age. Three year olds will have different questions to 15 year olds, so they would be very different conversations."

'A level of honesty is the best approach'

Joanna Thurston, a family support practitioner at Action for Children, mirrored his advice.

She said: "Parents will know their own child and what sort of information they can process.

"With most, if not all children, a level of honesty is the best approach. They know something is happening. Make sure you know all the facts and then put that information to them in an age appropriate way.

"Tell them things on a need to know basis. Condense that information into a way they can understand - and be open to questions, even if you don't have all the answers."

She added its important to focus on the positives and remember that the measures being put in place are to protect vulnerable people, like grandparents.

How both parents and children can cope with time off

There are three key things to remember as parents and children have their routine derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.

That's according to Beth Kerr, the director for wellbeing at schools operator Cognita.

She told ITV News there are some vital tips to learn from the experiences of parents in Vietnam and Hong Kong, where some schools have been closed for two months.

These are:

  • A timetable - align your child with the school timetable. It's important to look at routines and getting up out of pyjamas
  • Exercise - you may have to be creative, but setting little challenges in a flat can make a difference
  • Space - having different work-zones, for example, and making sure you give yourself some emotional space.

'Try to stick to advice but don't get worried about it'

Older people are being advised to stay away from people who may be carrying the disease. Credit: PA

Dr Max Davie said: "All the advice around coronavirus is do everything as much as practical. On the one hand, people should bear in mind the advice and care about it, on the other they shouldn't be getting worried about sticking to the letter of the advice.

"It's about minimising risk whilst managing to cope. Decide a way what is practical but isn't unmanagable."

Grandparents over 70, who are at the forefront of care plans for many families across the UK, are being advised to stay away from other people, who may be carrying the disease.

Dr Davie told ITV News: "There are ways and means of staying in touch, through online connections. Older people might need to get better at using phones, so you can physically see them. You could write them a letter, draw them a picture to tell them how you are feeling.

He emphasised, there are ways of staying in touch that "don't require physical contact. You can be a carrier and spreader."

'It's okay to cry' at death of loved one

People are being advised to take precautions against Covid-19. Credit: PA

In the event of a loved one becoming sick or passing away, Action for Children advises to keep routines going, as they are "vital" for children.

"Give children stability. It's healthy to talk about their feelings. Creating memory boxes of the person who has died and talking about happy times together, writing them down with photos can help," said Joanna Thurston.

"They can still feel they have that connection. There are charities that can help with grief, but what you do at home is incredibly important. It's best to keep that transparency and say it's okay to cry about this."

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know

At a time of such change, families are being advised to find ways to cope.

Dr Davie echoes the advice that structuring your day in a way that is productive; including shared activities so when things do get stressful, you have relationships and connections to fall back on.

"In terms of particular activities, screen based activities aren't inherently bad. But it is important if you're in the house that you interact with each other," he said.

"Follow the guidance, get some structure, but don't panic about yourself.

"This will be a long one."