Last week some children in the Yr 5 class I was teaching made some outlandish claims about the coronavirus including; “It is going to kill most of the earth’s population. No one will be able to fly overseas ever again. You can catch it from touching something 12 hours after an infected person has touched it. Don’t touch me. I’m not even allowed to stand within one metre of you or I’ll catch it.”
I hadn’t done my research on the facts at that stage so I couldn’t ease their worries with scientific truths, instead I took the whole class through a Short Cut. Here’s what I did:
Me – Okay everyone, I want you to write down on a big piece of scrap paper everything your Shady is worried about to do with the coronavirus. Absolutely everything, no matter how big or small or right or wrong you think it is. Keep going until your Shady (the fearful part of you) can’t think of any more.
I gave them 10 minutes to do this. They didn’t need all that time but I gave it to them, just to be sure they got all their fears on paper. (They told me they were done, but I made them wait.)
Me – Righto, now I want you to share your list with someone else, just one other person. Please be respectful of the other person’s fear when you do this. Everyone’s Shady has different worries and we need to respect that. Take turns reading your list of worries to each other and if the other person has something you don’t have and you are worried about it, add it to your list.
I gave them another 5 minutes to do this.
Me – Great. Now I want you to share your list with another person and do the exact same thing. I’ll give you 5 minutes. Remember, if someone has got a fantastic worry that you don’t have (and you are worried about it) add it to your list.
Me – Okay, last time. Go and find someone else to share your worries with, this will be the third person. Take turns, be respectful and remember to copy their fears if you are fearful of the same thing and you don’t already have it.
After another 5 minutes.
Me – Alrighty! Well done everyone that was fantastic sharing your fears and fantastic respect, nice work! Now let’s have a think about what happened in that process… Did you add more fears to your list because someone else had some great ones you didn’t have?
Yr 5 kids – YES!
Me – Isn’t that interesting? Before you talked to the three other people you were sure you had all your fears written down. What happened when you shared your fears with them?
Yr 5 child – They realised they had the same fear.
Yr 5 child – No, you gave them more fear, because they didn’t have it before.
Me – I think you are both right. We certainly have fears we don’t realise we have and we certainly become fearful of things because other people are fearful of them. What’s a real-life example of “catching other people’s fear” that has happened recently in Australia?
Yr 5 child – Toilet paper! People are buying toilet paper because they are scared, they will be quarantined for two weeks and they are worried they won’t have anything to wipe their bums with!
Me – Exactly! Fear is interesting isn’t it? Especially when a whole lot of people are scared of the same thing – in this case – the coronavirus. Not only do people catch the virus but they also catch the fear!
Me – I think we have given Shady a fair go, don’t you? We have listened to all our Shady thoughts, shared these with three other people and we have them all written down which means we can cross them out later if we discover that they are not genuine things to be worried about.
Me – Ideally, it would be fantastic if we all went and had a big cry to let out our fearful feelings because if you have been worried for days or weeks and you haven’t cried, your body could be full of fearful energy from your bottled-up feelings. We aren’t going to do this in class together right now, but if you know it would help you, you could go home and do it tonight.
Me – Having a good cry will tip that bottled up fear out of your feelings and body. I always cry to empty out my fear, it’s like doing a big poo actually. Pooing gets rid of physical waste, crying gets rid of emotional waste.
Me – Once we have emptied out our emotional waste, we can ask the loving, wise and courageous part of us, Sparky, what to think, say and do next. Let’s jump to this step now. Close your eyes, imagine you are sitting with Sparky and ask him or her what you can do about the coronavirus?
Yr 5 children’s answers – Wash my hands. Cough into my elbow. Stay home if I am sick. Get lots of sleep. Eat healthy food. Look up coronavirus on google to find out if I can cross off any of my worries. Buy some more toilet paper! Haha!
We left it at that!
If your beautiful child is worried about coronavirus, I suggest you do the same process with your entire family so they can see how people catch each other’s fear and so they know this is normal and okay.
When you get to asking Sparky what to think, say and do now, you will probably hear that it would be helpful if you knew the scientific facts so you could cross off some worries from your lists. Here’s a few great links that may be helpful, I’ll certainly be using information from these when I teach that class again next week…
Happy managing your coronavirus fear and stock piling your toilet paper!
I’m excited to be offering school holiday workshops again in April! Over two days I help children understand themselves so they can be more confident and resilient in managing their feelings, friendships and problems. Lessons are broken up with games, outdoor play and snack stops. A special time for both parents and children.
Sparky & Shady Two-Day Holiday Workshops
6-9yrs: 20 & 21 April & 9-12yrs: 23 & 24 April 9am-3.30pm
Norm Jordan Pavilion, Coffs Harbour Showground
$330 per child including parent (Sibling discount if in same workshop)
Money back guarantee. Endorsed by Clinical Psychologists.
To book or find out more visit: https://sparkyandshady.com/workshop/upcoming/
If you would like to try the first lesson of the Sparky and Shady program to see if you like it before you book into a workshop, grab a ticket to the ‘Meet Sparky and Shady in one hour’ session to be held on Saturday 4th April 2-3pm. Details here: