When is the right time to ask your children how they are feeling about the pandemic? Picking your moment to broach something difficult with your child can be tricky at the best of times. Should you even go there if they don’t seem to be struggling?

UK-based Ann Scanlon, a children and young persons counsellor at Marie Curie, says just because they’re not talking “doesn’t mean they’re not thinking [about] it” and coming up with their own conclusions. They’re overhearing conversations and – particularly with the media coverage at the moment – they’re hearing what’s going on. They will be piecing that jigsaw puzzle together.

How do I make sure I don’t make my child more anxious by talking about it?

Scanlon advises not to fixate on this too much. She says: “Actually, what they’re doing by talking about it is they’re bringing them into the family unit and making them feel safe. If it’s spoken about, the child won’t feel isolated.”

Is it OK to show my children that I’m upset and worried?

Children are extremely perceptive, Scanlon says. “Even babies pick up on things like the environmental changes around them, and they’ll feed on the anxiety of the adults around them as well.”

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Normalising your own anxiety will help them feel calmer. “It’s about saying: ‘Yes, this is an anxious time – I’m anxious, too, but that doesn’t stop you being able to ask me anything’.’’

What if I don’t have all the answers?

Children don’t ask questions with a view to having all the answers. “They’re asking the question to be heard. Adults shouldn’t be afraid they won’t be able to answer all their questions.”

Instead of trying to come up with perfect answers, reflect your child’s question back to them and ask them what they think.

How can I spot if my child is anxious?

Often, anxiety will come out in behaviour. “When a child starts to get angry, that can be a clear sign, as is withdrawing. If a child is displaying different temperaments, that can be a sign they haven’t got the right words. A lot of the time, kids talk through their actions.”

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