Explaining Coronavirus to young people


Our Youth Development Worker, Kirstyn Cameron looks at how to explain Coronavirus to young people and how to help them cope during this difficult time.

This is a difficult and challenging time for everyone. Young people and those with additional support needs will also be going through a tough time.

It can be challenging to explain what Coronavirus is without causing them to be anxious or stressed.

Below are some helpful ways on how to explain the current situation and what you should look out for to see if they are struggling to cope.


Be honest about COVID19 with young people and those with additional support needs

It is important to provide information at the right age and stage for the person.

Young people are perceptive to changes in routines and support. Therefore, explain what changes will happen in their immediate life.

Use positive language on handwashing and safety instead of negative or anxiety led language.

Also, give information in a timeframe that is appropriate and is not too far in the future.

Reframe things to say what we can do instead of what we can’t do.

Start by:

  • finding out what they already know – rumours/ misinformation
  • planning what to say
  • focussing on the facts
  • siscussing changes in their immediate world



How to explain Coronavirus to a young person 

It can be very difficult to explain what Coronavirus is to a young person. Words such as ‘social distancing’, ‘lockdown’, ‘isolation’ may be complicated phrases for some young people to understand.

For example, for a child aged between 3 and 6 you could say the following:

‘Coronavirus is a germ that makes people sick. You can make sure the germs stay away by washing your hands with soap and water. We will make sure you are safe.’

If they are older and in secondary school, you could say something like:

COVID19, or Coronavirus is an illness that is like the flu. Most people who have the virus will stay home and get better. A very small number of people will need more help to get better. You can keep yourself and other people safe by staying at home, washing your hands with soap and water and covering your mouth when you cough using your elbow.’


Setting the scene and choose the right time

When explaining to a young person or those with additional support needs, it is important to make sure it is the right time and right setting.

Make sure you talk to them in a quiet room with no distractions. Also, talk to them when they are most alert either in the morning or early afternoon.

When explaining how they should stay away from people and social distance, physically show what two metres is, use a prop for example a broom, or a dog lead etc.

Show from every angle, not just in front. Also, use a single prompt word to use when outside for quick response to ‘socially distancing.’


Be aware

Right now, everyone is worried and stressed. We are all mourning the loss of our freedom, liberties and are struggling with our vulnerability.

Stress and anxiety on its own can be a seizure trigger, but it can also affect our sleep.

Lack of sleep or increased tiredness is another potential seizure trigger for those with epilepsy. It’s therefore important that you use whatever tools you have to get on top of your anxiety.

While current restrictions make it difficult to resort to usual coping mechanisms like meeting up with friends or going on a walk, there is still a lot you can do to help yourself in these strange times.

Have a look at Anxiety UK’s website which is full of useful resources and practical tips on dealing with anxiety and offering mindfulness, breathing and grounding exercises.

Also, our epilepsy and stress/anxiety factsheet provides information and ways to alleviate stress and anxiety.



We know that tiredness and lack of sleep can be a trigger for seizures. Therefore, it is important that they stick to a good sleep routine.

Switch off any devices that emit blue light one hour before bedtime if you can. At the very least switch to night mode which reduces the blue light.

Blue light can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone important for good sleep.

Encourage them to a read a book or to listen to some music before going to bed.

Small steps can make a big difference to the quality of your sleep, and stress levels.

For more information and to join our Youth Groups, please email Kirstyn at kcameron@epilepsyscotland.org.uk for our Edinburgh Youth Group or email Shelby at sjohnson@epilepsyscotland.org.uk for our Glasgow Youth Group.