Sometimes a sneeze is just a sneeze, warns paediatric psychologist Dr Dane Channon in the latest episode of “Thandi and Captain Stay Safe”, Food For Mzansi’s new covid-19 podcast to help ease growing coronavirus anxiety.
While the East London-based clinician does not take the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic lightly, he urges parents to help children organise their thoughts and feelings about the virus. Channon says, “It’s important to understand that children have inherent suggestibility and vulnerability to media stories, and they have less experience and capacity to unpack the information that is continuously cycling through their mobile and TV screens. Even adults are struggling with this. It can be overwhelming.”
In the podcast interview with Sinesipho Tom, a Food For Mzansi journalist, he advises adults to share covid-19 related news and information on a “need-to-know-basis”. They should especially consider the child’s age, their cognitive development (how the child can make sense of what they hear), pre-existing anxiety conditions and previous trauma experience which may trigger further anxiety.
“Children are not medical professionals and we don’t want them to go (to) Dr Google to diagnose friends, family or themselves,” says Channon.
“Someone with a phobia, for instance, know all about the thing that they fear most. So, information isn’t always what’s most helpful. I would encourage parents not to go scrolling through social media and the news about covid-19 because there really is a lot of hysteria out there, a lot of propaganda and agenda. Really just stick to the basics.”
Whilst ensuring that children and families adhere to all the covid-19 safety tips, Channon also asks parents to remember that anxiety is a response to perceived threat. “Children will pick up anxiety from their environment. Anxious parents tend to have anxious children, both genetically predisposed and through their transaction with these more anxious parents. Children will take their cues in their lives from the people that they trust.”