As time stretches on, things only seem to be getting more confusing – particularly when different parts of the country are doing different things.
There’s the hope and promise of a vaccine in 2021, but we’ve still got Christmas to get through, first, with Public Health England warning that for every day ‘off’ restrictions over the festive period, we will need five extra days of strict lockdown measures in compensation. Bah, humbug.
So, when it’s this hard for grown-ups to keep track of what’s going on in the age of Covid-19, how on earth do we explain it all to our kids?
If yours are anything like my four and eight-year-old, they will likely adopt a world-weary tone when discussing the “ronavirus” – my youngest has never washed his hands so thoroughly as he does right now, and my eldest is a dab hand at FaceTiming her friends, now they can’t have playdates anymore.
But they still have questions: namely, what will happen at Christmas: will Santa have to wear a mask, and will they get to see their grandparents?
Amanda Gummer, child psychologist and founder of the Good Toy Guide, tells HuffPost UK that being “simple, honest and age-appropriate” when we’re talking to our kids is the best rule of thumb.
Here are her five key tips for how to talk them through the ever-changing restrictions:
Keep it simple – and be honest
“Simple and honest is best,” says Gummer, “and it’s all about age-appropriate information. One of the best parenting tricks is to ask what they think, what they’ve heard about the virus, and get some more context about where they’ve heard it.” As for working out what’s ‘age appropriate’, Gummer uses this motto: “If kids are old enough to ask a question, they’re old enough to hear an answer.”
Avoid overloading them with too much detail
“The worst thing is if you get a two-year-old asking what coronavirus is, and you give them a full breakdown of immunology,” Gummer says. “Make sure you’re answering the question they’re asking right at that moment, so if it’s about Christmas – answer just that. Try not to go off on a big tangent. Leave the opportunity open for kids to ask another question if they want to.” If your child asks you what the rules are around lockdown now, you don’t need to worry about giving them a pop history of the way things have been to date.
Be willing to say you don’t know
Parents should always be able and willing to say they don’t know the answer, Gummer advises. “If you’re never wrong and act like you know all the answers, kids can feel inadequate and inferior and feel like they shouldn’t speak up, in case they get it wrong. It’s lovely to be authentic and to role-model that it’s okay to admit you don’t have all the answers. You can say, “let’s Google that together and see what we can find” – and that in turn can teach them digital literacy – how to know whether a source is trustworthy, and what is ‘fake news’. It can teach them critical thinking.”
Let them lead the questions
Gummer says it’s important to wait for kids to ask what they want to know, rather than volunteering too much information from the outset. “As awkward and frustrating hearing the word, ‘why?’ can be, over and over again, it’s a really powerful tool to build up trust between you and to teach them questioning and answering skills.”
Find out what they know
Ask your child why they’re asking the question – and what made them think of it, Gummer says. “When you’ve answered, ask them if you’ve answered their question – or if there is anything else they want to ask. This allows kids to process bite-sized chunks of information, and they will stop when they’ve had enough.” This also goes for finding out what they’re worried about – and reassuring them that you’ll answer whatever they want to know, to the best of your ability.