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Scratchy throat? 6 ways to prepare your child for a COVID test

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Regular COVID testing is part of everyday life daily life, not only for us but now also our children. And while, as adults, we’re comfortable getting tested for the mildest of symptoms, it may feel daunting for our little ones. So in our efforts to do the right thing, how can we best prepare our children for what lies ahead at the testing clinic?

1. Talk about it

Have COVID-19 related discussions with your little one beforehand, so they know what is going to happen and why. Encourage your child to ask questions about the virus, why we have to get a test and what happens during the testing process. Even better watch an online video of a child having a COVID-19 test such as this one at NSW Health.

According to Therese O’Sullivan and Mandie Richardson, child health and development experts from Edith Cowan University, knowing how things will unfold will help your child through the testing process. “Knowledge of what is going to happen is important for children to feel in control and empowered in situations like COVID testing,” the pair reported to The Conversation.

2. Be honest about the test

Explain to your toddler that the test might feel a little uncomfortable so that they’re prepared. However, Dr Jan Fizzell, Senior Medical Advisor from NSW Heath says that if you’re a parent of a toddler, then you know that sticking things up their nose is fairly commonplace and most of the time they’re fine with it. “Most toddlers have stuck something rather large up their nose, it could be a pea, it could be their finger – they’re fine with putting things up their nose,” says Dr Jan. “This is not as bad as that.”

3. Get into character

Depending on the age of your child, doing a little role playing can help prepare them for the testing process. Perhaps your child can pop on a mask and pretend to test their teddy or doll. Use a long skewer with a cotton tip taped to the end to create the sense of the swab that will be used during the test. “This type of preparation helps children feel more comfortable and less anxious before medical procedures,” says Ms O’Sullivan and Ms Richardson.

4. Let your child choose

Letting your child participate in the process can help them to feel in control of the situation. Perhaps they can choose which testing hub to go to and what they’re going to wear. Let them choose what they want to take such as a toy to play with, a book to read and a snack they might want to eat.

5. Always be confident

At the end of the day, if we feel anxious or scared, our kids can sense it immediately. It’s important for us, as parents, to stay as calm as possible throughout the testing process. “The key thing is that you have confidence,” says Dr Jan. “Kids feed off our fear.” If you look worried and scared about the test, then your child will pick up on it, so try to stay relaxed to help ease any stress. Better still, if you need to have a test yourself, then perhaps go first. Your child will then watch and see that there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.

6. Follow up afterwards

It can be helpful to discuss the test afterwards. You can ask your child questions about how the test went, what happened or how it made them feel. Perhaps you can talk about what happens next in terms of waiting for a result. It doesn’t have to be a long chat, particularly if they find it in any way upsetting. Some kids are happy to talk about their experience, so simply listen to what they have to say. If your child doesn’t want to talk about it, then just give them little more time and leave it to another day.

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