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Containment, epidemic: how to talk to children?

He no longer goes to school, no longer has the right to see his friends, can no longer play outside (unless he lives in a house with a garden) … if our daily life as an adult is turned upside down, what about that? of our children? In this kind of situation, communication is more essential than ever. You must not hide reality from a child, but talk to him about it in words and pictorial examples appropriate to his age.

First ask your child what he has understood

To explain to a child, it is better to rely on what he has understood and the questions he is asking. Listen to it first, then answer it. Pay attention to his reactions, to identify what needs to be developed or not; answer his questions even the most incongruous and even those on death. An essential point for Aline Nativel Id Hammou clinical psychologist and author of The mental burden of children (published by Larousse)

“The adult must let the child cut him off, slow him down, question him so that it becomes a non-directive two-way communication and not an adult monologue. “

Don’t make him no unrealistic promises either : reassure the child, but without hiding the truth and without making promises that you are not sure to keep. “This could impact his ability to trust and reinsure himself with the adult thereafter”, underlines the service of infant and juvenile psychiatry of the University Hospitals of Marseille.

Speak true to a child, it’s also telling him that adults don’t always know everything but that he does his best to explain and find a solution.

The French Association for Outpatient Ambulatory Pediatrics (AFPA) stresses for its part that it is essential to send a message of trust beyond the worries and difficulties: “It’s a disease, a new virus… the doctors are doing their job to treat it. “

  • About the disease : it is contagious, it causes fever and cough. If your child asks you about their origin, you can tell them that we don’t really know yet, but that a lot of people are trying to understand.
  • On barrier gestures : Explain to him that this protects him, but also the others who are more fragile. Develop empathy.
  • On changing lifestyle habits : “Parents must explain why it is important to respect the decisions taken by the country’s officials even if it is difficult on a daily basis and even if we do not always understand”, advises Afpa.
  • On isolation, confinement : it is a complex notion that is difficult for a child to understand. Highlight the rapid and easy contagion of the virus, the need to protect oneself and others, and insist thatit’s not about a lack of love from others.

Simple words and pictorial examples

Use simple words and playful examples from everyday life. Among the activities recommended by Aline Nativel Id Hammou, the drawing :

“Create a comic, a tale, a story” The virus king wishes to conquer the world, it passes through the hands, also the eyes of men … a team of scientists seeks it and wants to understand “…”

You can also create a song or a choreography : “Wash your hands to get rid of viruses … houhouhaha, take the 30 seconds …”

The University Hospitals of Marseille, for their part, use the metaphor of the car :

“It’s as if we were little cars that can carry the virus from one car to another. If your car is in good condition, you will just carry it in the suitcase of your car. And sometimes you won’t even realize that you are carrying it. If another car gives you the virus, but your car is more worn out, it could cause damage to your car. “

Two comics to leaf through with him

The comic strip Coconfinement © Marseille University Hospitals

First advice of Afpa pediatricians: maintain a fixed pace of life with times of getting up, bathing, eating; make a schedule of the week.

Second tip: enjoy being together, share as many family activities as possible, set up collective and individual time within the home. This period of confinement should not be associated with boredom or chores. Aline Nativel Id Hammou’s advice:

“Take a family update every two days on life in confinement at home: emotions, experiences, changes to be made, valuation of actions. “

Third tip: maintain the social bond with friends, family. Submit a “Family confinement” logbook, “Letter to my best friend”, Letter to my grandparents ” in writing or by video communication.

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