What do we tell our children?

From the outbreak of COVID-19 in South Africa I have been asked numerous times, “What do we tell our children?” “How do we explain to them what this is?” “What is age appropriate?” The answer is; “I don’t know… I don’t know and I just don’t know.”


Never-have-I ever-been faced with a problem of such magnitude and far reaching effects (I’ll take a drink for that- if we still have any?) It is like living in an alternate universe, time or just a very bad dream that we are going to wake up from very soon. It is not reality and it defies what we understand life to be.


It is scary, it is all new and the most troubling question is: Will it ever end? Will life be the same again? So…. what do we tell the children? …. I simply do not know.


Ask us to talk to our children about the birds-and-the-bees, about moving to a new home or their parents getting a divorce. BUT COVID-19? There are no narratives from our ancestors, textbooks or journal articles we can refer to. This is us winging it and hoping that we don’t mess up, too badly. Let’s be honest, the whole thing is a catastrophe anyway. It is a disaster – as our president stated: “This pandemic is a national disaster.”


I have an almost 2 year old and the only practiced advice I have on what to tell your children is what I have told her:
“Have you wondered why we not going to to play school? Have you wondered why we not going to Swimz anymore? What about playdates with our cousins and friends?
That is because there is a virus called the Coronavirus or COVID-19 that is making people sick. The virus is a little-little ‘gogo’ that comes into your body and can make you cough, feel warm and you may even struggle to breath. So, we staying away from other people and keeping safe in our home so they little ‘gogo’ cannot come into our bodies through our nose and mouth?
It is OK to feel scared and cross. Mom and dad are here to try and protect you.”


Is this the right thing to say? I believe that age-appropriate honesty is the best policy and communicating with your toddler is important. Hopefully the silver lining in all of this is that I may teach my daughter some resilience and how to wash and sanitise her hands like a pro


Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler are helping children process the changes to their lives through the popular children’s characters such as The Gruffalo, Stick Man, Zog, the Highway Rat, The Smeds, the Smoos and many others.



If you feel your child needs some emotional support during this trying time, I am available for tele-therapy via Zoom. Please e-mail me on: jodilord@gmail.com for more information.

Keep Safe

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