FRONT LINE PROFESSIONALS

ADVICE ON HOW TO TALK TO CHILDREN

The work of healthcare professionals is key in the current situation and therefore they are under a lot of pressure since their workload is enormous these days. If you are one of them, you may be facing a situation when instead of taking care of the needs of yourself and your family you are spending many hours at work, taking care of others at places with high infection risk. Below, we have prepared some tips for you on how to react in this situation, how to take care of your own feelings and of your children who may be experiencing negative emotions in this situation. You can use the specific sentences listed here if you are the parent working as a healthcare professional as well as if you are the other parent.

This text is intended for doctors, nurses, social workers, laboratory technicians as well as other front line professionals.

What may the child be experiencing?

1 FEAR

2 CONFUSION

3 MISUNDERSTANDING

4 HOPELESSNESS

5 PRIDE

6 RESPONSIBILITY

How can you help the child?

1 EXPLANATION

2 HONESTY

3 NO DETAILS

4 PATIENCE

5 CARING

6 EMOTIONS

Give the child space to express their emotions, including fear and anger.

7 DELEGATION

8 YOU

Preschoolers

"You think that I am not at home these days because you misbehaved? That’s not the case. I have to take care of sick people, and there are more of them now, so I must stay at work longer."

"You are afraid that I can also get infected in the hospital, aren’t you? That’s why you have a stomach ache. Every time you are worried about something, tell me about it."

"I am also afraid that I could get infected in the hospital. But you know that we are all using protective equipment and we wash our hands. We do everything we can to stay healthy."

"Unfortunately it could happen that I get infected at work. But all of us do everything we can to prevent it. I promise that if anything happens to me, I will tell you, all right?"

School children

"You are afraid that I may get infected in the hospital, aren’t you?"

"I am also afraid that I could get infected in the hospital. But you know that we are all using protective equipment and we wash our hands. We do everything we can to stay healthy."

"I know that you are worried about me when I go to the hospital, and you would prefer me to stay home. But there are many sick people in the hospital and I can help them. Just like the superheroes, you know? I save our patients. I take care of them so that they get better."

"I am often really tired these days so I don’t want to play anymore today. I am sorry that I can’t do things with you as much as you would like. But we can do (…) on the weekend,
is that all right with you?"

"I am sorry that I can’t spend all the time you’d like with you, but I would really like you to enjoy the weekend. Your aunt agreed that you can stay with her over the weekend. She will certainly think of something nice you can do together. If something troubles you, be sure to tell her. I believe she will understand."

Teenagers

"So far, we have enough protective equipment, so there is not much chance that we get infected."

"We don’t have too much protective equipment so far, but we do everything we can to protect ourselves."

"The situation is difficult for me too. I am also afraid that I can get infected."

"I am angry and irritated because things are really hard for me at work."

"I am often tired these days. I am sorry that I can’t be there for you right now."

"It would really help me if you wiped the floor today."

"Thank you that you cleaned up today, it really made me happy."

How can you help yourself?

You are undoubtedly going through a lot right now. Maybe you find yourself in a situation in which you are unable to process your emotions and problems, and you need to focus on surviving day-to-day. Below, you can find tips to help you better cope with the situation.

FOCUS ON TODAY

Focus on today’s shift, today’s patients, situations you are handling right now. Go step by step, set up small goals. Don’t forget that you can only influence your part in whatever is happening. It is not reasonable to assess yourself and your job by the overall result, but by what you did. Ask yourself: “Did I do the best I could at the moment?” Yes? Great, you are
doing amazing! No? Can you learn something from this for handling similar situations in the future? Spare a moment to think through what you could do differently in a similar situation in the future. Use this knowledge next time.

FOCUS ON YOURSELF, AT LEAST FOR A MOMENT

If at all possible during some less demanding activity, try to focus your attention on yourself for a moment, even though it may be hard among all the commotion. A couple of seconds is enough, but do it several times a day. Create a space to calm down, focus, and look at the situation from a distance. Calm down, take a few deep breaths and, for a few seconds, let your whole being be filled with something fulfilling and good – it is up to you whether this will be the belief in God, goodness, realizing the greater purpose of your work, remembering your loved ones, imagining a pleasant place, or feeling abstract energy and power.

HELP EACH OTHER WITH YOUR COWORKERS

Not only at work, but also on a human level. Your coworkers are probably having similar feelings you are. Don’t be afraid to talk about it with them. Don’t speak only about business matters, but also about the way you are experiencing the new situation and dealing with it.

DON’T LET THE PROBLEMS OF OTHERS OVERWHELM YOU

Sharing your worries should above all be helpful. Don’t be afraid to tell your coworker that you can talk about it later when you are better rested and able to listen to them; you can also refer them to the help of a psychologist trained for such cases.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

Right now, you may not be able to take care of your emotions and process them properly. Even so, you should not forget about your needs, although it may be difficult. Try to think about who you can confide in about things that happened during your shift once the shift is over. Don’t be afraid to talk about the things that trouble you.

ASK FOR HELP

People realize that you work for all of us. When you need something, tell that to your supervisors, to the coordinators of outside help, to your relatives, friends, etc. Ask them to try to get what you need, be it equipment, food, or drinks. Use the help of volunteers as well. You can find the specific links below.

WHEN THINGS ARE OVERWHELMING

You may be feeling many different emotions, and it can really become too much for one person. Some may cope with the situation better while others may have more issues – this is normal. Try to reduce the amount of information about COVID-19 which isn’t absolutely necessary for you. You will then be able to better concentrate on your job or the rest which you really need. Speak with your family and with your children. Sometimes, this may not be enough or can even become draining. If you feel that you would benefit from professional help, you can use a local helpline.

BE GRATEFUL

To everyone and everything you can. Including yourself, because you are still fighting, even though your fight may not always be perfect or victorious. Be proud of yourself. You have a good reason for that – you are protecting the lives of others. Your job has is meaningful. Try to remember this in times of need.

How can others help you?

Don’t be afraid to let others help you. Everywhere in the Czech Republic (and in other countries as well), there are many volunteers who are looking forward to being useful – maybe even to you personally. They can help you for example with babysitting. They can study with your children and help them with homework or entertain them in other ways. If you are afraid of the volunteers visiting your home, they can do this remotely over the internet or phone. They can also do your shopping, walk your dog, help you with housework or sew facemasks which are still badly needed.

You are helping us (thank you for that!) so we will be happy to help you. WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER!

Here you can find some links for volunteer organizations in the Czech Republic in English:

If you are not located in the Czech Republic, we recommend looking up local volunteers.

https://psych.fss.muni.cz/en/coronavirus

Authors: Barbora Břežná, Zuzana Minrik under the leadership of Zuzana Masopustová