Dialog Box

Childhood and agency in the time of coronavirus

Child Wise has engaged Dr Reesa Sorin, an international expert in Childhood, Early Childhood, Emotional Literacy and Art Play, to develop resources aimed to assist professionals, parents and carers reflect on how they engage with children and young people. Make sure to check out 'A guide to sharing the driver's seat - as we learn together during COVID-19 home isolation' and find out how to engage children in decision making, including developing new routines and learning in and outside of the home.


Agency is the capacity of an individual to act independently and make their own choices. As adults; as parents and caregivers; as professionals in children’s services, our anxiety extends beyond ourselves to those younger and possibly more vulnerable than ourselves, especially during times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Even though we’ve heard that the impact of coronavirus on children is minimal in comparison to the impact on adults, it might be our first response to want to protect children, not just from falling victims to the virus but also from hearing or talking about it. After all, what they don’t know won’t hurt them, right?

Children need to be informed by the important adults in their lives 

Keeping information from children, however, denies them both their own agency and their voice to express and understand their feelings about the coronavirus situation. Without clear and comprehensible information from the important adults in their lives, children will still hear things, and will form their own impressions based on their limited understandings or misunderstandings about the situation. This can often lead to worry, fear and anxiety, as children imagine or catastrophise their future. So rather than protecting children through silence or distraction, we may actually be doing them harm.

Keeping children out of the conversation denies them agency in their own lives

Adults who see themselves as protectors of children are often loving and caring nurturers who act in children’s ‘best interests’. They assume that they know what those best interests are and have the power to guide and protect children from what they consider to be ‘other’ than their best interests. While in many ways this is an admirable position, it ultimately denies children agency in their own lives. It sees them as helpless and naïve; in constant need of adult wisdom to fill their otherwise empty existences (tabula rasa). It can also lead to anxiety and confusion in children, who strive daily to understand and make meaning of their lives.

Children have many ways of learning and meaning making

Viewing children as capable, or powerful does not mean that the adults in their lives are powerless. Rather, both children and adults are empowered and made knowledgeable by their interactions, negotiations and relationships with each other. Adults may have more experience and can share their experiences with children, but children have insight, curiosity and many ways of learning and meaning making. It is the negotiated and shared agency that supports children in their growing understanding of the coronavirus situation and adults in their awareness of their feelings, understanding and reactions to it.

Let’s keep children safe during the coronavirus pandemic

Child Wise can help you keep children safe in the current coronavirus climate. To help your organisation we are working on a new range of online safety training sessions, soon to be delivered by our child safety experts, we can conduct a system analysis to ensure your organisation is child safe or your organisation can get involved in child safeguarding journey mapping where we can identify any gaps and areas for improvement.

If you would like some help please feel free to contact one of our experts on 1300 CHILD WISE or info@childwise.org.au.






16 April 2020
Category: Blog
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