Keep Calm and Carry On!
The recent coronavirus and the media surrounding it has been the talk of students in and out of school this week. It is of course natural that the risks and the unknowns of the virus will create anxiety, particularly for children and adolescents who don't have the capacity to process information and reason in the same way an adult would. It is more difficult for them to assess health threats and put news reports and social media posts into perspective. Our students are hugely resilient and able to navigate through change and challenges such as this one. However, it's a timely reminder how important it is as families to check in with our children to reassure and process what is going on from the lens of our own family values and experiences.
Of course, we need to follow the official guidance provided, be mindful of hygiene and take normal healthy precautions as we would with any other virus. However, here are a few extra things you may want to consider:
Listen to your child's concerns and reassure them as best you can
Take time to check in with your child. Find out what they've heard, what they understand and any worries they have. Correct any misinformation and provide reasonable reassurance in a developmentally appropriate, honest and clear way. Scientists and public health officials are working overtime to understand the virus and look at ways to limit its impact. Encourage trust in their work and efforts and let teenagers get on with their very important business of being teenagers!
Avoid overconsumption of media
Many news outlets, other sources of online information and social media overemphasise the problem and its accompanying risks. Limit consumption of media, especially around this topic and suggest or provide other activities for your adolescent to be involved in.
Model a calm and measured approach
Children feed off their parents' emotions. They will look to you for cues on how to respond to the situation. Talking to them about reasonable hygiene precautions and then confidently carrying on with your day is likely to be the best approach.
Finally, remember all those usual healthy living basics of plenty of sleep, exercise and a healthy diet. Not only is that good for immune systems, but it will help everyone enjoy their break just that little bit more!
Jo Storrar and Tony Jones
Senior School Counselors, International School Basel