Submitted by: Johan van Rooyen, Clinical Psychologist, but foremost, a dad.

Without my realizing it, my soon-to-be 4-year-old daughter observed and listened to conversations I must have had with family and friends over the past few days.  I told her, just over a week ago, that we have to wash our hands a bit more and explained that there are a lot of extra germs at the moment and that people get sick . . . we count from one to ten and then from ten to one, each time we wash our hands.

I then realised that the unspoken collective anxiety has a massive impact on my little princess.

To my surprise, she started asking me about the Coronavirus on Saturday.  On Sunday, the word Corona surfaced even more and for most of the afternoon, she became a doctor to many of her soft toys. 

I then realized that the unspoken collective anxiety has a massive impact on my little princess.  She knows now that she has to just stay at home for a few weeks.  The biggest disappointment is probably that she won’t be able to go to our local Spur.

How can we make it easier for our children or the children of others?

As a therapist, I began to reflect on what all of this must do to the little humans around us.  I see the panic around me as everyone tries to make sense of what is to come.   I listen to the conversations I have with fellow colleagues in the Health profession: if we feel this uncertain, imagine what they are sitting with.

How can we make it easier for our children or the children of others?  We need to find a way to make them feel safe even if we feel unsure.

This is my attempt at finding guidelines that assist parents in this difficult, unsettled time: 

# Try not to have discussions about the virus with other adults when they are around.  They hear a lot more than what we ever think.

# Even though we receive important and necessary information through news channels, try not to switch to these while the children are present (while my daughter was playing I quickly switched to Sky News, on low volume.  She looked up and asked me if they were talking about the Corona virus).

# Reassure them that they are safe and that you will do anything to keep them safe.

# Answer their questions about the virus in simple, clear terms.  Don’t over-explain.

# Use drawings as a way to explain the virus a bit better to them.  Make it age-appropriate.

# Keep a sheet or logbook around where they get a star whenever they have washed their hands.

# Be creative.  Have a piece of clay at hand that they can play with, if they are scratching their face, eyes or nose.

# Include a few extra activities every day to take their minds off things: baking cookies, arts, and crafts, etc.

# Reassure them that they will go back to school and that everything will be ok.

# Hug them a lot more: trust me, it is the best medicine, for the parent too!

Our constitution is clear: we always have to act in the best interest of the child.  Let us act in their best interest and contain that which needs to be contained, even if we feel ‘uncontained’.

Edited By:  Cindy Neves

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