Ensuring young people have accurate, reliable and reassuring support and information is very important during the coronavirus outbreak.
There are lots of ways to get helpful information and support for our young people, some of which we have compiled below.
Finding reliable information
Social media is dominated by news and commentary around coronavirus, and it can be hard to distinguish between helpful and harmful content. One of the key ways we can support young people at this time is to guide them towards balanced, reliable information so that they can better understand the reality of the situation and the steps we can all take to protect against it. Below you'll find some recommended sources of information.
Health Service Executive
The Health Service Executive (HSE) regularly updates its websites and channels with information about coronavirus.
World Health Organisation
The World Health Organisation (WHO) provides regular updates on coronavirus across the world, as well as offering helpful advice on measures to prevent its spread.
You can read its advice and watch videos on how to protect yourself and others against coronavirus on its website now.
Coping with anxiety
The coronavirus outbreak and the huge media and public focus on it can mean that our young people are experiencing new feelings of fear and anxiety: providing them with emotional support at this time is crucial, and will not only help them through the period ahead but build their resilience for the future.
Advice from mental health professionals
Paul Gilligan, Chief Executive Officer of St Patrick's Mental Health Services (SPMHS), gives practical tips on how parents and carers can support young people to understand and resolve their fears around coronavirus: read his piece here.
Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist, Dr Colman Noctor, spoke with Alison Curtis on Today FM about how to help children understand what is happening with coronavirus: you can listen back here, Dr Noctor also joined Ray D'Arcy on RTÉ Radio One to discuss the topic, with the podcast available here.
The WHO has published a quick infographic with tips and guidance on how to help children cope with stress around coronavirus: you can see it here.
The WHO also encourages parents to talk about the situation with children and young people to help reduce their anxiety. It provides guidance and downloadable tips from its website to help parents to talk constructively with children at this time, covering topics such as creating daily routines, managing stress and avoiding bad behaviour: you can access these here.
UNICEF, the worldwide children's rights agency, suggests six ways that parents can support children through coronavirus, as well as giving some advice for teenagers on minding their mental health at this time.
It highlights the importance of avoiding misinformation about coronavirus, as this can cause us to panic, and has even created a quiz to make sure we know the facts: you can play it here.
Support for the autism community
AsIAm supports people with autism. Its team has produced a community webinar, presented by Michael Ryan, counsellor and psychotherapist, and Dr Alison Doyle, educational psychologist, to offer advice to the autism community on coping with social distancing and isolation measures during the coronavirus outbreak. You can watch the webinar here.
In partnership with SuperValu, AsIam has also produced a social story or visual guide which explains ongoing restrictions, aiming to prepare members of the community to spend more time at home and away from others. You can see the visual guide here.
Our #MindYourSelfie resources provide activities for young people to help them combat life’s stressors and promote positive mental health in their lives. The resources, all of which are freely available to download and use from our website, include:
- A series of guided relaxation audio exercises that introduces the practice of mindfulness to children
- Printable mindfulness colouring sheets to help young people feel more relaxed
- Wellness Journals which provide young people with a template to record their feelings and thoughts
- A Wellness Activity Calendar which suggests daily, positive actions young people can take
- A Selfie ‘Steem activity that invites students to share positive messages about one another, and
- The Selfie Tips Origami Chatterbox game that encourages children to think positively about themselves.
Coronavirus: A book for children
The illustrator of The Gruffalo, Alex Scheffler, has now illustrated a free digital book for children aged five to nine about the coronavirus and what can be done to control or prevent it. The book has had input from the the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, with further advice from school staff and a child psychologist.
The book answers key questions, including:
• What is the coronavirus?
• How do you catch the coronavirus?
• What happens if you catch the coronavirus?
• Why are people worried about catching the coronavirus?
• Is there a cure for the coronavirus?
• Why are some places we normally go to closed?
• What can I do to help?
• What’s going to happen next?
Author Manuela Monila has created the Covibook to support and reassure children under the age of seven about the coronavirus. She explains that the book "is an invitation for families to discuss the full range of emotions arising from the current situation". She recommends printing the book so that children can drawn on it as they work through its content. You can download the Covibook, available in several languages, here.
Home School Hub
RTÉ, Macalla Teo and Mary Immaculate College are collaborating to provide the Home School Hub, a teaching initiative for primary school children across Ireland while their schools are closed due to coronavirus. Whether on the RTÉ2 television channel, the RTÉ Player, or the RTÉ website, children can watch and use entertaining and educational activities, project work and content. All content is presented by primary school teachers and based around the existing primary school curriculum.
Each morning from 11am to 12 noon, RTÉ2 broadcasts three short class segments, presented by teachers who speak both English and Irish, with the classes aimed at students in first and second class, third and fourth class, and fifth and sixth class. Affter watching the programme, students can then engage with fun content and project work on the website and RTÉ Player.
A later catch-up programme, RTÉ Home School Extra, plays at 4.15pm on RTÉ2, with primary school children sharing video messages and content to reconnect with each other. The programme gathers all user-generated content in one space and showcases it to the entire country.
No matter where you are from or what language you speak, RTÉ wants every school child to take part!
PE with Joe
Maintaining physical activity is really important for children's mental health at any time, but especially so when our normal activities are more limited with the coronavirus outbreak. Joe Wicks is running a half hour 'PE with Joe' home workout class every morning that children, young people and parents can all enjoy. You can tune in and take part here.
To help children deal with stress and anxiety, Save the Children has shared six, drama-based relaxation activities that children can do at home. You can join your children and, together, try the Lazy Cat, the Turtle, the Lemon and more. Get the activities and instructions here, find a quiet space, and enjoy!
These relaxation activities are in addition to a range of other resources that Save the Children has made available in response to the current coronavirus outbreak, which you can learn more about here.
Seeing the world virtually
We might have to stay indoors and limit how far we can travel, but that doesn't have to stop us from seeing new places or letting our imagination run free.
You can follow webcams around the world to see some amazing sights, from elephants in South Africa and beaches in Thailand to the Northern Lights and Lapland.
Lots of museums and galleries are offering virtual tours, so you can visit famous artworks and fun exhibitions from your own home.
If you're an animal lover, don't miss the Dublin Zoo webcams, where you can catch up with some of the zoo's most exotic residents!
The WHO is collaborating with the arts and entertainment communities across the world to bring host of performances to connect people during the current social and geographic restrictions in place in countries around the globe. Chris Martin of Coldplay and John Legend are among those who have taken part in these #SolidarityShows already: here, you can see who else is coming up, and tune in to boost your mood with some music and new friends.
For the month of April, the Ombudsman for Children is inviting children and young people to share the things they miss with the coronavirus restrictions in place and what they will appreciate more when these are lifted. You can tell them about the creative ways you pass the time, the new things you've learned, or something different you've tried. There are lots of ways to share your thoughts - whether its video, music, poetry, art, memes, photos - and you'll find all the details you need to get involved here.