Advice for children and young people

Updated on 10 July 2020

From #PEWithJoe to painting rainbows for your front window to doing a TikTok dance challenge, you’re probably focusing on lots of positive stuff right now. But you might also feel confused, worried, scared and little bit overwhelmed about what’s going on with coronavirus.

Research by Kooth has found that many young people are feeling unhappy and lonely during lockdown while a report by Partnership for Young London and Good Thinking recently revealed that boredom and uncertainty are key concerns. If you have existing mental health needs, coronavirus could be putting even more pressure on you. In a survey by YoungMinds, 83% of respondents agreed that the pandemic has made their mental health worse.

The Good Thinking team wants you to know that it’s OK to not be OK. Everyone is finding this hard. So, how can we help to make the current situation less scary? Let’s start by answering some of the questions you might have.

What is coronavirus?

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Coronavirus is a new virus that causes an illness called COVID-19. It is being described as a pandemic because it’s happening in lots of different countries. The symptoms include a high temperature and a cough. You can find further details about it on the Government and NHS websites.

What can I do so I don’t get it?

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It’s really important that you and your family follow the official advice – as this will help to protect you, reduce pressure on the NHS and save lives. Most people only get mild symptoms of coronavirus and don’t need to see a doctor or go to hospital.

Even though experts say that children and young people are less likely to get coronavirus, you still need to follow social distancing and self-isolation guidance so you don’t pass it on to anyone else.

I’m really worried that I – or someone in my family – might get the virus or even die from it... how likely is that?

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It’s perfectly natural to worry about your own health and that of other people in your family. Have a chat with your parents or carers or an older sibling about this – it’s important that they know how you feel. Always remember that following the official advice reduces the risk of getting the virus.

What are social distancing and self-isolation?

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Social distancing helps to slow down the spread of the virus and save lives – that's why everyone except key workers was asked to stay at home for so long. As the lockdown restrictions are relaxed, it's still important to limit the contact you have with other people. Read this BBC Newsround article about the new 'one metre plus' rule.

NHS guidance is that self-isolation must happen when you (or someone you live with) has symptoms of coronavirus. You shouldn’t even leave home to buy food or go for a walk. You might have heard some people call this “quarantine”. The NHS runs a Test and Trace service to let people know if they have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19).

Read our blog by Callum (aged 12) who had to self-isolate.

What does “vulnerable people” mean?

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Some people already have a health condition that means they might get very sick from coronavirus. This includes people who have had an organ transplant, people with specific cancers and people with severe respiratory conditions, such as cystic fibrosis and bad asthma. The NHS has written to everyone who is considered to be vulnerable to explain what they should do and how they can get support.

Why can't I go to school?

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To slow down the spread of coronavirus, all schools across England closed on the 20th of March. The only children allowed to go to school were those with essential worker parents (NHS staff, supermarket workers, police officers etc) and children who have special needs or who can’t be cared for safely at home. Most children and young people have been able to carry on with their schooling at home, with teachers sending work, students connecting remotely and parents or carers providing support for home schooling.

If you are in early years, reception, Year 1 or Year 6, your school might have re-opened on the 1st of June and your parents or carers might have decided you should go back. Schools are putting various safety measures in place. Other primary years and secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges might be providing some face-to-face contact before the summer holidays.

My exams were cancelled... how will my grades be worked out?

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If you were due to sit GCSE, AS Level, A Level or IB exams this summer, you’ll receive a calculated grade. This will take into account a range of evidence, including non-exam assessment and mock results. You can get full details of the changes on the UK Government website and your school or college will also be able to tell you more.

Read our blog by a GCSE student.

Why can’t I see my friends, grandparents and other people I care about?

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It might seem unfair that you can’t hang out with your friends or visit your relatives at the moment but this is all part of slowing down the spread of the virus through social distancing and shielding. If you have elderly grandparents or friends with certain health conditions, they could get very sick if they get the virus. Instead, stay in touch with them by phone, text or video chat.

The UK Government is gradually easing lockdown in England – find out what you can and cannot do on the UK Government website and read this BBC Newsround article about seeing friends and family.

Why can’t I do sport / certain hobbies / go on holiday?

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Some sports are now allowed (e.g. golf and tennis), but you might not be able to do all the activities and hobbies you normally enjoy. Remember to follow social distancing guidelines, wash your hands after playing sport and clean any equipment you use.

I’m finding it hard to sleep... what can I do?

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With so much talk of coronavirus, it’s not surprising that you might struggle to get to sleep, wake up in the night or have bad dreams. It’s important that you get enough rest though so switch off your devices and do something relaxing before bedtime. Talk to your parents if lack of sleep is becoming a big problem.

My parents/carers seem really stressed... is there anything I can do to help?

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Being in a confined space and not able to go to their workplace or see friends can be very frustrating. They’ll also be worrying about you and they might have additional concerns about their job and finances and where they can get essential supplies... but they won’t want to burden you with their worries! There are some small things you could do that might help to reduce their stress, like offering to do some chores or giving them a hug. If you’re worried that any tensions at home are getting out of hand, there are helplines you can call (see below).

Top tips

  • Stay connected and be open about how you feel – talk to your family and contact friends online and on the phone.
  • Stick to a routine – you might even like to draw up a schedule (a bit like your school or college timetable) and put it on your bedroom wall.
  • Stay busy but don’t overdo it (check out our ‘8 fun things to do’ list below).
  • Eat healthy food, stay hydrated and do some exercise at home.
  • Be kind – doing something for someone else is really good for your mental wellbeing. Maybe your family could help one of your neighbours? Or raise some money for charity?
  • Get enough sleep and, even if don’t have to go to school or college, try to get up at your normal time.
  • Balance out screen time and other activities and don’t forget about online safety rules.
  • Understand that not every story about coronavirus that you see online is true – try to only get expert advice from the Government or the NHS.
  • Acknowledge that the coronavirus pandemic will end and focus on the exciting things you’ll be able to do then – like seeing your friends at school or college, going travelling, starting university or getting a job.
  • Ask for support if you need it – for example, if you’re being bullied, seeing conflict at home or if you have existing mental health needs.


8 fun things to do

  1. Find a recipe online and make dinner for the whole family
  2. Learn a dance, video yourself doing it and share it on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube (if you’re 13+)
  3. Take a virtual tour of the Natural History Museum or Buckingham Palace
  4. Grow something from seed, either in your garden or inside your house or flat
  5. Do stuff together as a family, like an online fitness workout (seeing mum or dad trying to do ‘spiderman’ moves will definitely make you smile!) or an ‘at home’ movie night
  6. Have a virtual play date with one of your friends, using your games console or an app like FaceTime or WhatsApp
  7. Write a letter to a loved one (granny will love to hear from you!)
  8. Learn something new – baking, sewing, a foreign language, a computer game, a song


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The Good Thinking team hopes you found this article useful and we’d like to finish with one final thought...

Although what is going on is really difficult for everyone, try to focus on the positives. You’re probably becoming more resilient and more independent. You’re getting the chance to spend more time with your family and strengthen the bond you have with them. You’re seeing how there are helpers everywhere and how communities are supporting vulnerable people – just look at what Captain Tom Moore achieved with his sponsored walk for the NHS! Stay safe.

Useful websites

Coronavirus explained

Tools for learning and fun

Mental health support

Helplines

Check out Good Thinking's advice about dealing with anger and uncertainty. If your parent or carer is an essential worker or volunteer, check out this article by the Good Thinking team. If you're a student, listen to our podcast about supporting students through coronavirus.