Skip to content ↓

Coronavirus Support

St John's have worked closely with the school's Educational Psychologist based on some of the concerns raised during the current pandemic. In response to the challenges that many of our families are facing, a range of resources have been selected to offer support. These can be found split into the following categories:

Coronavirus Response


Emotion Coaching

During worrying and stressful times, such as the current Coronavirus outbreak, our children look to us for reassurance that they are safe and for guidance about what to think, feel, and how to behave.  

Times like these cause big changes in our day-to-day lives, which we can all find unsettling.  

Sometimes, we can miss warning signs in our children’s behaviours, and at other times we can fall into the trap of dismissing their worries, without helping them to process situations (e.g. ‘stop crying – you’re being silly’). Remember, all behaviour tells us something. 

Emotion Coaching is an approach that uses situations of heightened emotions to teach our children about their emotions. In doing so it helps children to ‘understand the different emotions they experience, why they occur and how to handle them’ (Gottman, 1996). Emotion Coaching is built on the foundations of close, caring and empathic relationships. The central idea is that we should take time and opportunities to ‘connect’ with our children before we ‘correct’ them.  

The following steps set out the Emotion Coaching approach: 

Notice behaviours, label emotions, listen with empathy, and explain to children that all feelings are okay 

  • Recognise behaviour as communication.  

  • Emotions are normal things to experience.   

  • Stay calm and listen. Be patient. 

  • Look for physical and verbal emotional cues of how a child is feeling. 

  • Lend your thinking brain: provide a commentary of what is happening. 

  • Help children make links between what has happened and how they feel. 

What you might say: 

  •  Use your senses: “I can see…”, “I can hear…” 

  • Wonder aloud: “I wonder…”, “Perhaps…” 

  • Show understanding and validate feelings: “I understand…”, “It’s okay to feel…” 

  • E.g.” I can see you’re upset and wanting to spend time on your own. I wonder if you’re finding things hard and that you’re feeling worried about what’s happening. It’s okay to feel like this...” 


Set boundaries, where needed. 

  • All emotions are acceptable. But not all behaviours are acceptable. 

  • Always begin with empathy and connect before stating boundaries. Summarise what they have said – then check your understanding of what has happened. 

  • State the boundary being challenged 

What you might say: 

  • E.g. “…however, its not okay to…”, “…remember, the house rules are…” 

Problem solve together 

  • Only problem solve when your child is in a relatively calm and rational state.  

  • Empower your child to believe they can overcome difficulties and manage their behaviour. 

  • Ask them for alternatives and/or provide choices which will allow your child to take ownership of the solution. 

What you might say: 

  • Use language that gives a sense of problem solving together:  “Lets see if we can…”, “Maybe/Perhaps we could…”, “We’re going to…”, “Let’s try…” 

  • E.g. “Perhaps we could go somewhere better where you can be angry…” “Let’s try to think of another way we could behave…” 


Example Scripts: 

  • “I can hear that you’re getting frustrated that we can’t leave the house. It’s natural to feel like that as it’s tough to stay inside when we normally spend time outside. Maybe we could…” 

  • “I can see by your expression that you’re getting angry that you can’t see your friends. I’m sure your friends are missing you too. But remember, the rules are that we have to stay inside and that we can’t see our friends right now – to make sure we all stay healthy. Let’s try video-calling…” 

  • “I see from your behaviour that you’re angry. It’s a really frustrating time right now and it’s okay to feel cross. But in this house, we’re kind to each other and don’t hit out. Let’s see if we can find a way to let your anger out in a better way. Perhaps we could…” 



Talking To children about Coronavirus

Current living conditions and the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus outbreak can bring fear and worry to our children. However, it is important to remember our children are looking towards us for reassurance and cues on how to react and respond.  

Some strategies to have reassuring conversations with kids and build resilience are:  

  1. Try to manage your own worries:  

Uncertainty can make all of us feel anxious or worried. Identify other adults you can talk to about your own worries and questions. What things usually help to make you feel a bit calmer? If you are at home, music, breathing and relaxation techniques, distraction (such as watching something funny), and time with family members or pets can all help. Talk to your children when you feel calm – it will reassure them.  

  1. It is good to talk:  

Children will have heard about Coronavirus and likely noticed changes around them (such as people wearing face masks). It is important they feel comfortable talking to you about Coronavirus as you will be the best source of information and reassurance for them. It’s also likely they will talk to their friends or other children, which can involve imagination and misinformation. So having the chance to check-in with you is even more helpful.  

  1. Remember to keep calm and stay positive: 

If you show anxiety or fear, your child will pick up on this and also feel nervous and afraid. Having calm, panic-free discussions can ease emotions around these changes. Check-in on how your child is feeling and acknowledge and address their worries rather than ignore them.  

  1. Stick to the facts:  

It is important to have thoughtful conversations regarding the coronavirus to distil anxiety, worry or fear. Be truthful but remember your child’s age: It is better for children to take an honest and accurate approach – give them factual information, but consider your child’s age, processing, and emotions to determine how to frame these conversations to ensure your child understands. 

For example, you might say ‘we don’t yet have a vaccination for Coronavirus, but doctors are working very hard on it’ or ‘a lot of people might get sick, but normally it is like a cold or flu and they get better’. Younger children might understand a cartoon or picture better. We would also recommend that adults watch news programmes and then filter this information to their child in a developmentally appropriate way.  

Discuss that not everything they hear or see is real. It can also be comforting to be reminded that doctors around the world are looking for ways to address the coronavirus and highlight positive news as well. 

  1. Allow children to ask questions:  

It is natural that children will have questions, and likely worries, about Coronavirus. Giving them the space to ask these questions and have answers is a good way to alleviate anxiety. Again, try to be honest in your responses – it is ok to say you don’t know. At the moment, there are questions we don’t have answers to about Coronavirus – you can explain this to your child and add in information about what people are doing to try to answer these questions. Maybe your child has an idea too – let them tell you or draw them.  

  1. Consider Media Consumption:  

When looking online, consider the source and fact-check to prevent fake news, and think before you share. Be mindful of how much media you are checking and minimize how often you are reading stories. Try to keep a healthy balance (both online and offline) in your daily routines and lifestyle.  

  1. Eliminate stigma:  

It is important to be aware of how the coronavirus is explained to your children to avoid any person/group being blamed. Also, communicate that if someone has a fever or cough does not necessarily mean this person has the coronavirus.  

  1. Give practical guidance:  

Remind your child of the most important things they can do to stay healthy – washing their hands and the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ advice for coughs and sneezes. Help your child practise and increase their motivation for keeping going. 

  1. Boost Coping Strategies:  

When anyone has change or uncertainty this can create some levels of worry or anxiety. When this occurs, it is important to use positive coping strategies to manage those emotions. As every person is different, so too are our coping strategies. Regardless, it is important to practice positive strategies to calm down or modify our thinking to improve our outlook and overall well-being. Coping strategies can include: positive self-talk, singing, dancing, reading, drawing, music, Netflix/movies, create a gratitude list, meditation, yoga, colouring, exercise, cooking/baking, talking to a friend or family member, or doing other activities that are fun or give you joy and make you feel good.  






Resources to help explain Coronavirus to children 


Media for children about Coronavirus:  


Information for children about Coronavirus: 


Talking To children about Illness

Adapted from advice by British Psychological Society (BRE26d / 23.03.2020) 


Adults have a key role in helping children understand what is going on by providing information and reassurance. 

The British Psychological Society has provided the following information for parents to give an informed understanding of children’s understanding of illness at different developmental stages.  

We all have basic needs that we need to meet before we can move onto higher level needs. Psychologists think of these as the bottom of a pyramid of things we all need. We need to meet these most basic needs, like food, water, sleep and safety before we can move onto anything else. Safety is one of these most basic needs and essential for good psychological development. Covid-19 is making many children (and adults) feel unsafe.  

Much of the information that children hear about Covid-19 is intended for adults. Because children don’t understand risk in the same way that adults do, many children are unsure of how worried they should be but many are very worried indeed – about themselves, their parents, grandparents, their pets, and their friends.  

Children are not little adults and their understanding depends on their developmental stage. This means that we need to talk to children about what is happening at a level that is developmentally right for them.  


When talking to children aged 0–3 it is important to understand:  

  • They will struggle to understand things that they can’t see and touch, so understanding what illness means will be difficult unless they can see it (such as someone sneezing).  

  • Schools are still responsible for the education of their children and young people. Reassure parents that during the time that children are away, they will have access to learning materials as appropriate. Many schools use online learning platforms already and it may be necessary to provide more detailed information to parents about how to access and use these services.  

  • They will not understand what causes illness, especially things that go on inside our body.  

  • They are focused on what is going on right now and have little understanding of the future and of time.  

  • Their basic needs will be around food, sleep, play, and closeness. Interruptions to these things will have the biggest impact on their emotions and behaviour.  

  • They will base their understanding on what has happened to them before, and think it will happen again.  


Children aged 0–3 will:  

  • Get easily confused or misunderstand things they hear people say.  

  • Show their distress at change in routine through: being more clingy, changes to their toileting, eating or sleeping habits.  

  • Say things that seem to not make sense to us as adults.  

  • Not understand why adults are scared, worried or sad.  

  • Carry on with playing even when things around them may be difficult (e.g. if a loved one is unwell).  



  • Don’t use complicated explanations. Stick to short sentences and focus on the here and now – what you are doing today and tomorrow. Be honest but don’t add lots of detail.  

  • Focus on structure and routine – keeping things as normal as possible.  

  • Spend time playing with your child – try to make sure you limit your time on devices.  

  • Use play with dolls and stories to explain situations or concepts that it is important for the child to understand.  

  • Where you have to make a change to a routine, keep explanations honest but brief (e.g. Mummy is working from home. This means she will be in the house with you lots instead of going into the office).  

  • Limit background conversations and news that the child can hear.  



When talking to children aged 4–7 it is important to understand:  

  • Children are focused on their immediate environment – what is going on around them, what is happening next and soon, and how they feel right now.  

  • They will struggle to understand concepts that they cannot picture in their mind.  

  • Complicated things like illnesses they can’t see may be difficult to understand.  

  • They will understand illness in terms of simple symptoms, like a cough or runny nose.  

  • They will struggle to separate out that symptoms of illness may be different – such as the idea that some coughs are OK, and others are more serious.  

  • They will be starting to understand that you can catch some illnesses but they may get confused about this and think you can catch all illnesses.  

  • They will know that some behaviours can help keep you healthy, like washing your hands, however they might may get confused and think it will definitely stop you getting ill.  


  • Children may increase behaviours they think will keep them healthy that they have heard adults talking about before e.g. saying they want to eat healthily or exercise to be healthy and fit. 

  • Children are exposed to stories and fairy tales at this age and you might hear them playing out illness-related stories with their toys – some of the things they do may be confusing or not accurate.  

  • Children may ‘fill in the blanks’ with their imagination or seemingly illogical or inaccurate explanations – you may wonder, ‘where did they get that from?’  

  • Children may blame themselves or think something was their fault (e.g. grandma is ill because I did not wash my hands).  

  • Carry on with playing even when things around them may be difficult (e.g. if a loved one is unwell).  

  • They may ask a lot of questions repeatedly as they try to make sense of information they have heard with their limited understanding of illness.  


  • Use play and stories to shape a child’s understanding, where necessary and appropriate. Characters in the story can be used to correct misunderstandings.  

  • Make sure that the child understands cause and effect (e.g. washing hands will help stop germs spreading rather than will stop).  

  • Answers do not need to be increasingly complex – if you have said enough to your child, repeat the information you have given consistently. If you are not sure or don’t know, say so instead of making something up!  

  • Help your child label and name their emotions by labelling and naming yours.  



When talking to children aged 7–12 it is important to understand:  

  • Children can now see themselves as different to others and understand that other people have different needs and perspectives.  

  • Children still think about things from their own perspective so will be influenced mainly by that.  

  • They have an understanding that illness can be lots of different symptoms, and that lots of things go on inside their body which they can’t see.  

  • They understand that medicines and following doctor’s advice can help them get better but still need a lot of help and prompting to follow advice.  

  • They are more able to understand concepts of time and permanence, and will understand that death happens to everyone and is permanent.  


  • Not wanting to voice concerns for fear of upsetting parents, friends or others.  

  • Difficulty verbalising distress – they may not know why they feel worried or stressed.  

  • They are more likely to experience stress as physical symptoms, like a headache, a stomach ache or wanting more physical contact. They will ask more questions about the impact on other people or on wider changes to life than younger children.  


  • Encourage emotional expression through drawing, stories, questions – a feelings box where children can write down their questions and thoughts and discuss them with an adult can be helpful.  

  • Normalise different feelings appropriately and talk about what you are doing to help with your worries or feelings.  

  • Make sure your child is active (provided they are well) – this gets rid of some of the chemicals in the body which are released when we are anxious and will help with physical symptoms of stress.  

  • Make sure children don’t take on adult roles in a desire to help others.  

  • Ensure explanations are accurate and explain differences between conditions – e.g. children may have heard that having a cough might be worrying, and they will need to understand that not all coughs are worrying. 



When talking to children aged 13+ it is important to understand:  

  • At this age, children have a good understanding of time, they can imagine the future and lots of possibilities. As a result, their imagination may mean they are able to worry more about things that haven’t happened or might not happen.  

  • Teenagers can understand the different causes of illness, that illnesses can be very different and can understand the role of stress and worry on the body.  

  • Teenagers are still mainly influenced by their friends – so even though they can understand a lot of information about illness, what their friends are doing and saying may impact on how they behave.  

  • Teenagers are developing their own identity and a sense of who they are in the world. They are likely to look at their own sources of information and parents become less defining in how they think about information and how they behave.  



  • They might ask less questions of parents, and turn to other sources of information such as social media, their friends and news outlets.  

  • They might take advice from friends or other social influences on how to behave and act and be conscious of not wanting to act differently.  

  • There might be increased awareness of how illness and health behaviour fits with what is important to them.  

  • They might be more concerned with social, moral and emotional aspects of illness and how illness is having a broader impact. This might lead to more distress and sadness than in younger children.  

  • They might want to find ways of helping others.  



  • Continue to offer space for support, affection and discussion.  

  • Ask open questions such as, ‘What did you think of the news that…?’  

  • Provide them with information from reputable sources ‘I came across this today, what do you think of it?’  

  • Support social opportunities and discussion with peers.  

  • Offer choice and promote independence within the context of what is possible and appropriate – if a teenager can’t go out, giving more choice about activity within the home can be helpful.  

  • Suggest ways of helping others that are safe and appropriate.  

  • Offer reframes about worries – how can the young person think differently about the situation which helps them find a positive in the situation? 

Tips for Families

  1. Talk to children about what is going on (see advice on ‘Talking to children about Coronavirus’) 

  • Children are watching/listening all of the time and they make sense of things on their own, unless we (the adults) help them.  

  • Reassure children that it’s okay to feel worried and unsure. Try to focus them on the ‘here and now’ and find the next positive step forward that is in their control.  


  1. Help children to manage their emotions: ‘Connect before we correct’ (See ‘Emotion Coaching’ information) 

  • Use times of heightened emotions to teach children about their thoughts, feelings and behaviours.  

  • Look behind behaviours and try to explore what children are thinking and feeling. Remember, behind worry/anger are a range of complicated thoughts and feelings. Imagine an Iceberg with a little showing on the surface, but lots underneath. 

  • Try to notice children’s emotions, label them, show empathy and understanding, set limits and boundaries (if needed) and guide problem solving. Remember to model this between adults too! 

  • “I can hear that you’re worried and that you might be finding things difficult. It’s okay to feel worried. However, it’s not okay to stay in shout at me and throw things. Let’s find a way that we be calm together. Perhaps we could…” 


  1. Find healthy routines (including self-care routines) 

  • Even as adults, having a predictable routine can be reassuring and help us feel in control, when things feel challenging around us.  

  • Where possible, keep things the same, but allow yourself to make a new family routine. 

  • Maintain healthy morning/evening routines and safe-care routines. Get everyone up at a regular time and get washed and dressed for the day.  

  • Have clear and healthy routines for bedtime. It’s easy to blur bedtime routines and stay up too late which can end in a vicious cycle. 

  • Set/schedule exciting things during the week to break up the boredom, e.g. movie night, special meals, karaoke night etc. 


  1. Set goals for the day 

  • According to the Anna Freud Centre (See ‘Sources’ below):  

‘Goal-setting can give you some extra motivation and encouragement, if you feel you need it. It may also help with your daily routine, giving you something to work towards to get you through the day. You might find that setting yourself little goals each day keeps you feeling more organised and stable, and you can always reward yourself for completing a goal’.  

  • Whilst it may be difficult to set big goals at the minute, we can set smaller more manageable things like learning to cook a new meal or spending, 20 mins doing chores, or finishing a piece of homework. 


  1. Don’t try to replicate the school day. 

  • It won’t be possible to replicate a full school timetable for a variety of reasons. Giving yourself and your children permission to accept this can be a big weight lifted. 

  • Trust that children will bridge any gaps when they return to school. 

  1. Set clear, consistent boundaries 

  • When normal routines have been challenged, this is more important than ever. 

  • Make sure boundaries are phrased positively, i.e. what we should be doing, rather than what we shouldn’t be doing. Make sure the adults’ model and stick to them too. 

  • Reward good behaviours. Give praise quickly and consistently and be specific about why it is being given. Try to give five bits of praise for every one piece of correction. 


  1. Limit access to the news 

  • Whilst it is important to keep up to date with the news, lots of negative stories can quickly become overwhelming. Try to limit the time spent reading or watching news. Where possible, try to find positive news stories so that there is a balance.  

  • Try to protect children from distressing media coverage. 


  1. Find ways to be active 

  • If safe and maintaining social distancing (within government advice), use your one opportunity to get out and exercise.  

  • Alternatively, make opportunities for family exercise in the home, through videos, live streams etc. 


  1.   Stay connected 

  • Connection is a key factor in emotional well-being and resilience.  

  • Be present as a family. Find opportunities to spend time with each other and engage with each other. 

  • Children and adults need to stay connected through with their friends and family. There are a range of opportunities to do this, including phone, letter, videocall, various apps (make sure they’re safe and supervised). 


  1.   Find opportunities to be ‘mindful’ 

  • Turn off the devices, put the phone down and focus on the here and now. Use relaxation techniques and try engage with the world around us. 

  • According to the Anna Freud Centre, Mindfulness and meditation helps us to relax and use our senses to focus on the present moment: 

‘The goal is that we are not caught up in the constant workings of our thoughts and have more time to see the present moment clearly’ 


  1.   Keep learning 

  • Use time to explore and engage in new interests and activities. 


  1.   Variety is key to breaking the boredom 

  • Separate and plan a range of activities during the days: Cook, play boardgames, create, read, draw, dance, do drama, listen to music, do yoga, to name but a few… 

  • Limit (and supervise) screen time and time on devices. 


  1.   Play 

  • Play is fundamental to children’s wellbeing and development at all ages! It’s also a great way to reduce stress in adults.  





Please select the links below:

Self Help info sheet

Coping with stress

Coronavirus Workbook for Children

Helping children cope with stress

FACE Covid - coping strategies

You can also download a copy of below.


Supporting children with SEND


Variety of social stories and information from supporting agencies.


  • National Autistic Society - Advice/tips for Autistic people and families: 

  • National Autistic Society Helpline: Call 0808 800 4104, 10am-3pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays). 

  • Autism West Midlands - Tips for daily life during the Coronavirus pandemic: 



Attached documents 

  • Carol Gray social story – Pandemics and the Coronavirus 

  • Mencap social story 

  • Simplified social story for younger children. 

  • NAS - Learning about the Coronavirus 

  • NAS - Tips for Families 


Coronavirus Social Story

Information about Coronavirus

Learning About the Corona Virus-Dr. Siobhan Timmins

NAS Tips for adults - COVID19

NAS Tips for famalies - COVID19

Pandemics and the Coronavirus

Social Story - coronavirus


You can also download a copy of below.

Covid-19 SEND Support

British Psychology Association Advice

Please select the links below:

BPS - Coronavirus and UK schools closures - support and advice

BPS - Talking to children about illness

BPS Talking to children about Coronavirus

You can also download a copy of below.

If you are experiencing difficulties, please refer to the school Early Help Statement or contact  a member of staff to see how we can help.