Answers for the grandkids

WONDERING how to explain COVID-19 to the grandchildren?

Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg has taken on the task with a special on-line, children-only press conference.

The press conference hosted by the PM and Minister for Children and Families Kjell Ingolf Ropstadt and Education Minsition Guri Melby was not open to adult journalists.

The panel responded to questions submitted through a children's TV show and newspaper about COVID-19, sent from anxious children.

"Many children have questions about the coronavirus. This is why the government, in collaboration with NRK Supernytt (a children's TV show) and Aftenposten Jr (children's newspaper) is organising a separate press conference for children," the government said.

Norway has set up emergency powers to close a wide-range of public and private institutions, including schools and kindergartens. All sports and leisure activities are cancelled. This means most children in Norway are at home and refraining from meeting friends and relatives, particularly elderly ones.

The dramatic change in the children's lives has prompted questions to how they will cope with the new parameters and it is apparent there is a level of anxiety associated with the changes.

In a half hour online conference, the PM and Ministers answered questions from across the country.

"It has been special days ... many think it is scary," Ms Solberg said at the start of conference.

"It's OK to be scared when so many things happen at the same time."

"By being home, you are helping other people not be contaminated and get sick. It is important for those who already have a disease or who are very sick," she said.

The team answered questions such as: "Can I have a birthday party?"; "Can I visit my grandparents after I went to a shopping centre?"; "How long does it take to make a vaccine?"; and "What can I do to help?"

The solution suggested regarding birthday party attendance was a phone call and singing happy birthday over the phone. Ms Solberg also reminded the children that you can keep learning at home.

"Learning is fun," she said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised people to support each other and offer "compassion and kindness" during these times.

WHO also advised that elders could help children express their fears or sadness through creative activities such as playing and drawing and to discuss the virus in an honest, age-appropriate and supportive manner

"Provide facts about what has happened, explain what is going on now and give them clear information about how to reduce their risk of being infected by the disease in words they can understand depending on their age."

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has also held a special "children only" press conference where she was joined by two medical experts to answer questions.

The move has been met with overwhelmingly positive responses.

"Absolute legend...making our next generation feel heard is so important," said one Instagram follower.

Another added: "This is brilliant because I am struggling with how to explain this to my kids."

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