Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The news that children could be faced with in the current COVID-19 pandemic may seem almost unspeakable. But, together, we must find words, and ways, to give voice to their experience and prevent millions of children struggling with their fears and uncertainty alone, say authors of a new Comment published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health.

Video shows shadow of person stroking another person with the caption "You're not alone" and "We will work through this together as a family, whatever happens".

Research shows that sensitive and effective communication about life threatening illness has major benefits for children and their family’s long-term psychological wellbeing.

The Comment authored by experts at the University of Oxford is published today in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, it highlights the importance of communicating with children when a loved one had died from COVID-19. 

  • Families are separated from sick relatives who are being treated in hospital. When the patient dies, children within the family are often invisible to hospital staff liaising with relatives
  • Parents want to protect their children from distress and may feel unsure about how and what to tell children about their relative’s death
  • Children are astute observers of their environment, and when communication is absent, they attempt to make sense of the situation on their own, with important long term consequences for their psychological wellbeing

 

In the midst of this devastating death toll and hospitalisations from COVID-19, healthcare workers are tasked with making life-changing telephone calls to relatives to tell them that a patient has died. It is crucial that a patient’s role as a parent or grandparent is identified so that appropriate support can be offered to the family to tell the children about their loved-one’s deathProfessor Alan Stein, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford. 

This Comment highlights a platform of freely-available resources to support professionals and families communicate with relatives and children when a patient is seriously ill or has died, including:

  • A step-by-step guide for staff making telephone calls to relatives when a patient has died.
  • Prompts for staff to specifically inquire if the patient had important relationships with children
  • A rationale for relatives about the importance of talking to children about what has happened
  • A dedicated step-by-step guide for families to help plan how they will share this life-changing news with children, including specific phrases they might use
  • Two animations to support the guides for staff and families

Prioritising effective communication with children about a parent or grandparent’s illness and death during COVID-19 is essential to protect the intermediate and long-term psychological wellbeing of children.

To access free resources, visit the COVID-19 communication support website.

NIHR OXFORD HEALTH BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH CENTRE NEWS

Please follow the link below to read the news on the NIHR BRC website.

Similar stories

How Mindfulness May Improve Body Satisfaction and Mood

New research from Emma Osborne, Research Assistant at the Centre for Research on Eating Disorders (CREDO) at the University of Oxford (and PhD Candidate at the University of Bath), and Dr Melissa Atkinson, University of Bath, investigated two ways in which mindfulness might improve body satisfaction and mood.

Review Highlights Risk Factors Associated with Violence in Schizophrenia

Researchers at Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry have found that people with schizophrenia and related disorders are at higher-than-average risk of perpetrating violence, but that the overall risk remains low (less than 1 in 20 in women, and less than 1 in 4 for men over a 35-year period for violent arrests and crimes).

New Study will Investigate Brain Fog Symptoms in Post-Hospitalised COVID-19 Patients

C-Fog is a collaborative new study led by Oxford University researcher, Dr Maxime Taquet, which will investigate the reasons why brain fog or cognition problems affect patients after COVID-19 infection. With a better understanding of the mechanisms involved it may be possible to understand how to treat brain fog and help many thousands of people worldwide.

A New Experimental Study Investigated the Effects of Atorvastatin on Emotional Processing

Atorvastatin is one of a group of statins widely used to treat heart and blood vessel diseases. The medication works by lowering cholesterol in the blood. This new study shows that atorvastatin influences the way people experience certain emotions, giving us important insights about disorders such as anxiety and depression.

People with Long-COVID After Hospitalisation Face Limited Recovery After One Year

People who were hospitalised with COVID-19 and continued to experience symptoms five months later, show limited further recovery one year after hospital discharge, according to the latest results of a major national study looking at the long-term health impacts of COVID-19 on hospitalised patients.

The Effects of Social Media on Public Attention and Attitudes Towards COVID-19 Vaccines in the UK

A new study finds that media coverage of positive vaccine research can have a positive effect on overall social media sentiment, countering vaccine misinformation, but the effects wane over time.