NZ Herald Column Kyle MacDonald

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It’s the virus which has sparked fear and disruption around the world. And New Zealand is not immune from this.

So, how do we get through the coronavirus pandemic?

Kyle MacDonald is a psychotherapist and mental-health advocate and will answer four of your questions in a new, twice a week, column.

If you have a question for MacDonald, please send it to

How do I talk to my children about coronavirus?

The most important thing is to stick to the facts, and reassure them.

Allow them to ask questions and lead the conversation. Kids need to understand, and can easily do so, if we give them facts but it is important to avoid alarming them.

You might want to tell them it’s a special type of cold or flu, and even if they caught it they would be safe, as would you as their parents, but stopping the spread is important to protect others – people who are old, or have health conditions.

It’s also okay to protect them from the TV or radio news about current events, especially death tolls.The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise how you can use these simple daily precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

I’m worried I’ll lose my job as a result of the economic downturn – what should I do?

The Government package announced today might help, and especially if you’re required to stay home because of “self-isolation.”

But it’s okay to be worried, many of us are.

Talk with your boss or colleagues, or your friends and family. It helps to talk with people who understand when we feel worried.

Arm yourself with good information, talk to your bank and check if you or your business are eligible for any of the assistance that has been announced.

I find myself feeling angry towards those who have, or might have, the virus, such as people who have come from worse-affected countries – how can I deal with those feelings in a healthy way?

It’s normal to react to fear – especially fear of the unknown – with anger. It’s self-protective.

But it helps to recognise that we’re all afraid, and that those who have been exposed in other countries are likely even more afraid than you are.

Facts help – close exposure is required so practise “social distancing”, wash your hands frequently and practise compassion, we’re all afraid in one or another way, and we’re all in this together.

How can I stop thinking about coronavirus all the time?

Over-focus, or hyper-vigilance is a natural response to threat – it’s hard wired into all of us. When we perceive a threat our fear system forces us to focus on it to keep us safe.

But too much of this over a long period of time can become unsustainable and overwhelming.

It’s important to limit the information you’re exposed to: turn off your notifications on your phone, and control when you engage with the news.

Go for a walk outside, or at a beach and leave your phone at home or in the car. Or distract yourself with an external focus. It’s okay to unplug and look after yourself.

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Leave a Comment

  • Suzanne Timpson March 26, 2020, 8:15 am

    Hi Kyle,
    Thanks so much for this information.
    One question, I’m confused about being outside. You are saying go for a walk, go to the beach, however we are also being told do not leave home, that police will be monitoring the streets. This morning on the radio a reporter was saying that people were using atm’s last night, an example of what was a no-no. Are you able to clarify what is ok outside the home. Thank you.

    • Kyle MacDonald March 26, 2020, 12:22 pm

      Hi! Yes this piece went to press prior to the Police making it clear that driving to locations for exercise was not advised. So it appears that driving is only for essential workers, for going to shop for food, and then home again, or for medical needs. All exercise must be local, so walking, running or cycling from home – while maintaining distance from others and not touching public surfaces while out and about.

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