13 March 2020

How to talk to your child about the coronavirus

I was standing in front of empty shelves in a shop, looking at the last few remaining bars of soap, when I heard two kids start talking. “Why are they buying all the soap?” asked the younger boy, around seven years old. His older, perhaps about nine years old, sister replied “Because they think we are all going to die”. “But WE aren’t going to die, right?” worried him, and the sister tried to comfort him saying “No, WE aren’t going to die.”

Whether you like it or not, and whether you try to shelter them from the news, kids know full well that something is going on. They aren't stupid. And it is best to make sure that the information they do get is correct and they are not scared or anxious of what they are hearing. 

After my six year old came back from school this week I asked her if she had heard about coronavirus, and she told yes she had and that the kids had been talking about it on the playground. So I decided it was time to have that chat, dissuade any fears and explain what she can do.

I’ve had a look online for some instructions on how best to talk to kids about coronavirus, and there are some good summaries. The guidance in a nutshell is to keep things age-appropriate and simple, check your own anxieties before you speak to them, and focus on the impact of the virus on them and what they can do in this situation. BBC News shared a good summary of how to speak with your child about corona, Child Mind gave some good tips on the matter too, and Save the Children provides seven quick tips.

My personal observations after having the talk with my child was that it helped to:
  1. Keep it brief, simple and age-appropriate;
  2. Be guided by what they wanted to know;
  3. Be truthful, not panicking nor minimising;
  4. Explain that kids usually get only a little bit sick with corona virus, and;
  5. Explain what they can do to avoid the virus, so instructions on washing hands and how to sneeze safely. 

According to the experts these actions help because kids can be more anxious if they feel like they are being kept in the dark, they are mostly worried about the impact on themselves and immediate family, and giving them simple actions to take can help them feel in control and empowered. 

To start the conversation, I asked these questions to my six year old, and provided these answers. I hope they can be of help to you too when you will talk to your kids about coronavirus:

Ask "Have you heard about coronavirus?"

She said yes, that they had spoken at the playground about it, but had not heard teachers speak about it. She said that some of her friends said it was just a sniffle and sneeze, nothing to worry about. I explained that while for most people it was like a cold, it could make some people very ill, old people and people with difficult health, so we need to be careful to try stop corona. 

Your child would by now probably have heard something about the virus, and may have some concerns. It is worth asking what they have heard so you can correct any misinformation. The next question then to follow would be:

Ask "What would you like to know about coronavirus?"

She wanted to know two very specific things: how does it spread and how did it travel here all the way from China. 

We went through the droplets, cross-contamination and touching face issues. I found the easiest way to explain this was to demonstrate with actions to ensure she understood me correctly and could follow what I meant. I explained it usually infects people because they touch a surface someone else with the sickness has touched. To demonstrate this, I pretend-sneezed in my hand, then leaned on the table. I then pretended to be another person who comes in and touches the table, and then rubs her eyes. 

We then discussed how the disease came all the way from China to UK. I explained that there may have been a person, or more likely, several people, who had the virus but didn't know they had it. They came to Europe, or UK to travel, or to work or to see family, and then infected people here, who again infected more people.  

Explain what to do to avoid getting the virus

I explained that most important things to do are to sneeze correctly and wash your hands thoroughly. 'Catch it, bin it, kill it' was a good catch phrase to use - so sneezing or blowing your nose in a tissue, putting it straight to the bin and then washing your hands. Or if you don't have a tissue and you need to sneeze or cough, then sneezing in your elbow is OK too. 

Hands need to be washed for 20 seconds with warm water and soap, so we practiced washing every finger thoroughly while singing Happy Birthday to You twice. I also explained she needs to wash her hands every time she comes in from outside, before food (especially important) and after the bathroom or blowing her nose. I also mentioned no sharing drinks or snacks with friends. 

And remind them they can always come and ask you more questions  

They might like to know more later, or hear something, so keeping that communication open is the key! Further, expert-led tips on how to speak to your kids about corona are available on BBC NewsChild Mind, and Save to Children

If their interest in all things disease are now peaked I can recommend The Bacteria Book (on amazon.co.uk or amazon.com) - fantastic and child-friendly educational resource on bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Helpful tips and ideas on how to talk about the coronavirus with children, what they might ask about Covid-19 and how to explain things simply.

Helpful tips and ideas on how to talk about the coronavirus with children, what they might ask about Covid-19 and how to explain things simply.

Helpful tips and ideas on how to talk about the coronavirus with children, what they might ask about Covid-19 and how to explain things simply.

Helpful tips and ideas on how to talk about the coronavirus with children, what they might ask about Covid-19 and how to explain things simply.

Helpful tips and ideas on how to talk about the coronavirus with children, what they might ask about Covid-19 and how to explain things simply.

Have you spoken with your kids about this virus already? 

You might also like: Doing good with your first haircut - The Little Princess Trust

8 February 2020

I didn't make New Years' resolutions, but I did do a "happy list"...

Last year I made a happy list - 11 things that I wanted to do throughout the year as they brought me joy. This year I skipped New Year's resolutions again but I did do that happy list again. Now that it is February it feels like a good time to revisit those few goals for a happy 2020 I made... 

But shall we see first how did I do with my 2019 "happy list"? 

I had decided to do things like having a weekly family tradition, doing yoga, going out exploring London, reading books and using my "good stuff". I had also said I would bake, learn something new, sleep more, tidy my wardrobe, meet new people and keep on taking family photographs.... 

Well, I didn't do too badly really.

We continue to have weekly family pizza and film nights, we've been to loads of things in London London, I've read 13 books (which is not bad all things considering) and I have been using my nice things, so have been using my fancy tops, the expensive perfumes and nice make-up. I've baked a bit, learned how to make wreaths and use TikTok (ooh new social media network), met new people at a book club and various meet-ups, and taken some family photographs. I seem to have skipped yoga and sometimes sleep too, and not really kept up my commitment to family photos up properly. But hey, that's life isn't it!

So this year I want to continue doing things that make me happy, and in order of not of particular importance they are:

1. Keep up with the family night. Often we have homemade pizza, sometimes burgers, and often we watch a film and sometimes we play board games. It is great fun, and while it can be tricky to organise with two over-active kids, it is always worth it. 

2. Keep on reading books. This year I'd formally want to achieve at least 12 books. With full time work and young kids that sounds decent but still achievable. Alongside quicker popular thrillers, I also read classics, sizeable novels and popular science or current affairs books which take a while - so one a month is plenty.

3. Keep on enjoying London. I've loved visiting and seeing new places last year - we've been to the theatre thrice, Shrek's Adventure, Tower of London, London Aquarium, National Army Museum and Secret Cinema twice, all new things, and have visited plenty of old favourites too. This year I plan to visit some of the old favourites like Natural History Museum and British Museum, and maybe the Zoo again. There are so many places to see and things to do here as a family - and I enjoy writing reviews and tips about them here on the blog too. 

4. Learn something new! Last year it was wreath-making and a new social media network, who knows what it will be this year. Crocheting is still tempting me. I also saw a course for arm-knitting which sounds fun!

5.  I want to find more time for blogging. It is a creative pursuit I really like - I enjoy writing for fun and photographing and it is great when people find my blog. I have so many things I want to write about! I do find it difficult to dedicate time for it though, as alas, responsibilities come first. And with two kids, my oh my, aren't there many of them! Life seems to be a never ending cycle of laundry, cooking and commuting. This year I am on a path towards simplifying our lives to make more time for things that matter, and I'd like to dedicate a bit of that time for this too.

So there is my happy list - five things I want to have more in my year 2020. More family time, more fun and more time for my own creative pursuits too.

Really, you could make one of these happy lists any time of the year, so if you skipped New Year's resolutions like I did - try this instead!

What's on your "happy list"?

You might also like: My 18 goals for a happier and more fun 2018

4 January 2020

Lively and energetic: Our review of The Tiger Who Came to Tea

We were invited to review The Tiger Who Came to Tea, currently showing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. It was a lively and energetic show, and perfectly pitched at the younger theatre goers. I took my six year and and 18 month old, who both enjoyed the show and had a great time. 

It is showing in London until 19th January 2020, and then touring UK - more information and tickets can be found on tigerstealive.com

tiger who came to tea cast

The Tiger Who Came to Tea is of course one of the most loved Judith Kerr books and will fit that nostalgic spot for many parents too. I can understand why kids love her stories so much, they are simple and absurd and delightful - I found the play enjoyable to watch. 

The show was fun and interactive. The audience was straight away sucked into the world and kids loved participating in the show, talking back to the cast, pointing out things for them and interacting with the stage. There were great many laughs with the slapstick humour that is so universally pleasing for kids.

tiger who came to tea theatre show

Both my children were mesmerised by the show. My six year old told me it was "probably the best theatre show I have been to". She took great delight in the interaction and was roaring with laughter with all the jokes. The 18 month old loved it too, although found the tiger too scary to stay in her own seat and at times, even to watch the show. The tiger and the play are categorically not scary, but all the audience interaction and the noise that amps up when the tiger comes on stage can be a bit much for the tiniest theatre goers.

While there is no interval, there was a very welcome interactive and physical break in the middle of the play. Showing consideration towards the young audience, the play had a built-in break so to speak. The actors encouraged the audience to get up and join their dance, stretch their arms, and march their feet. The audience was also taught a song, and asked to sing with the cast. Particularly handy if you've got toddlers, who start to fidget sooner or later, but also pleasant for the older kids.

tiger who came to tea theatre stage

The London show was at Theatre Royal Haymarket. It is at a central location and easily accessible, the closest station is Piccadilly Circus. While it is an older traditional theatre, the bathrooms were clean and modern, and had a baby change facility as well. As usual, the seating is quite tight so at winter time having big bags and coats is a hassle. The cloakroom is £0.5 if the attendant is present. If you've got very little ones keep your eye out for those plastic seat elevators so they can see better, the theatre has some of them. 

If you have young kids you may also be bringing a pram but you can't take it in the theatre due to space. There is a buggy park right before you enter the theatre to get your tickets and staff will direct you there. You may be asked to fold the pram. If you are bringing a pram you might also like to know that Green Park, which is about 10-15 minute extra walk away, has step-free access. 

meeting the cast of tiger who came to tea

cuddling tiger from tiger who came to tea

The show is showing in London until 19th January 2020 after which it will tour UK up until May 2020. Tickets can be bough at tigerstealive.com or Box Office 020 7930 8800. It is definitely worth the visit if you have young children - both my girls were mesmerised by it!

What theatre shows have you taken kids to?

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