The Illustrated Guide to Covid Conversations – transcript

Read strategies and tools for better conversations with people you are trying to support.


What is this guide for? And how can it be used?

Well, this guide is to help you have conversations about Covid or other complex topics.

If you work with young people or people from diverse backgrounds, this guide includes a range of strategies to try.

Covid has been hard on many of us, especially for young people and when language is a barrier.

Things feel like they’re returning to normal for some people, but the stress and anxiety are still real for others.

Some want to control what they put in their bodies and don’t want to be told what to do.

They might have a family who has chosen not to get the vaccine. Or perhaps they have parents or carers who have concerns about the vaccine on their child’s health. There might also be cultural reasons.

They could be vaccinated but are not interested in getting the booster shots. It’s not required, and they don’t feel like there’s a need.

They might be feeling uncomfortable going out after the lockdowns.

Public transport, large events, and even small gatherings are stressful. They choose to stay
away and keep indoors.

An excellent place to start is to talk through things.

It’s worth noting that a healthy and respectful conversation:

  • does not create harm to ourselves or others.
  • gives each other time to speak.
  • gives each other time to think.
  • gives each other time to respond.
  • gives each other the space to be different.
  • lets people disagree or have a different opinion.

There are conversations and actions you can take to help people figure out the right decision for them.
Use this menu to find scenarios and explore relevant situations and the conversations you need to have.

Making choices

How can our decisions help us take back self-agency?

You are always making choices, all day, every day.

Helping someone understand why they make choices and decisions can be an antidote to feelings of anxiety and fear.

This could be achieved by helping them articulate their concerns and their values and boundaries.

This can never be said enough: take time to listen to the whole story.

Ask: “What are you feeling?” and “What other circumstances make you feel this way?”

The first answer will not be at the heart of the issue, and no two people will have the same drivers of anxiety or fear.

Bring the conversation towards points where a person can take back some of the elements of control.

Ask: “What are you feeling?” and “We know we can’t control Covid, but what can you control now?”

Try understanding a person’s choices by working together on how they have arrived at their values. The aim is to have a conversation where we build empathy.

People may want to fit in and belong to a group where they feel safe and included, especially in difficult times. But that may also not be a place someone would want to be in the future.

Something to try:

Use a ‘values calculator’ for a scenario a young person might find themselves in.

Ask: “Are your friends’ values the same as yours?”, “Is this value informed by others’ opinions or actions?” and “Are you happy to let their values guide your decisions into the future?”

If not, there are tools to help find values that are more meaningful for you, in the long term.

Most of us make decisions to be comfortable or to avoid feeling anxious.

Ask: “Are your values based on your feelings?” and “Is it informed by fear, or by anxiety?”

Some of your decisions have big impacts on other people, so for them, also consider trusted

Some people may have decided to just ‘go with the flow’ but doing nothing is still a choice.

Take back control over the decisions you make, by asking: “Is this who I am? Is this what I care most about?” and “Ask yourself: “Am I at a point where I can’t be bothered?”

What we do, shows what’s important to us– our actions are our values. What are your actions about issues like drunk driving, or visiting elderly relatives? Do your actions match your values?

Remember, the purpose of this exercise is to have a conversation where we build empathy.

Find activities to do together to build self-agency and self-determination:

• Define values and boundaries.
• Identify activities that alleviate and better manage anxiety.
• Make plans out of anxiety.

See the ‘Covid Conversations’ resources

Having hard conversations

How to have better conversations about tough topics?

Some people want to have complex conversations but don’t want conflict.

This can be especially true for a young person when speaking with an adult or parent.

Start by talking about using simple messages or open-ended questions that can help organise difficult topics. Chat about how to have a conversation when you disagree on things.

Something to try:

Identify a topic that a young person might be nervous about stating their position on. Take time to identify their position and evidence and organise them into a ‘fact sandwich’!

There might be more or fewer fillings, but thinking of it this way may help bring some structure, and truth, to a tough conversation.

The aim is not to create conflict, or ‘win an argument,’ but to be equipped with skills to conduct a conversation with clarity.

For example: if the statement comes up, “The vaccine is being forced on people.”

Take the first piece of bread, stating your position, i.e., the facts, and follow with one point per filling.

Bread: ‘You still need to consent to receive a COVID-19 vaccine – or any vaccine.’

Cheese: ‘No one has forced the vaccination against their will or consent. People can choose whether they want to be vaccinated or not.’

Tomato: ’The health of everyone is seen as more important than each person’s right to stay unvaccinated. So you have a choice, but it may mean that you have to deal with some tough situations if you are unvaccinated.’

Salami: ‘At some jobs, you have to be vaccinated to stop the spread of disease – like in aged care, hospitals, or for working in meatworks or an abattoir.’

Salad: ‘And for travel, vaccinations are standard for diseases like yellow fever, so we don’t get it and bring it back to Australia.’

After you’ve shared your points, finish the sandwich with another piece of bread; your position.

Bread: ‘So yeah, everyone still has a right to get vaccinated or not.’

There are many activities and tools like this to better express ideas and have productive conversations.

See the ‘Covid Conversations’ resources.

Navigating social media

How is social media influencing our thinking?

How is social media manipulating the information we see?

Discuss how social media is consumed and how it can influence our thinking. Talk about how awareness can help to develop some critical literacy skills.

This can be a conversation about algorithms and how they work:

Ask: “What is coming up a lot on your feeds these days?”, “Why do you think it’s coming up so much?”

It can be a conversation about how consuming social media can impact your mood and health:

Ask: “Do you read about negative events in the world through social media?”, “And how do you feel after a ‘doom scroll’ session?”

You can talk about how to decide what is true and what isn’t.

Ask “Let’s say you saw something on your feed you weren’t sure was true, how likely are you to fact-check it yourself?”

Bring the conversation towards points where a person might feel more aware.
The aim is to better manage how they let social media dictate their choices, opinions, and emotions.

Something to try:

Sit together and search keywords like #vaccines and compare what comes up on each of your feeds.

Chat about what has come up. What’s the same? What’s different? What emotions and reactions does the content elicit?

Learn more about misinformation and the power of social media to influence thinking via:

  • Games that show the mechanics of misinformation.
  • Documentaries that explain how social media influences.
  • Tools to improve critical thinking.

See the ‘Covid Conversations’ resources.

Talking about trust

Why do we feel certain ways and how to respond?

With the amount of information out there it can be hard to discern what is ‘true’.

Figuring out what media is reputable can be exhausting.

What can help is improved critical literacy as well as having access to ‘real’ and trusted people to talk to.

Have a conversation about how to distinguish between the three categories of information:

  1. what we know is true: Based on multiple lines of evidence, including peer-reviewed scientific studies and reports from public health authorities.
  2. what we think is true: inferences are drawn from reasonably strong supporting evidence.
  3. opinions and speculation: includes the many other issues for which the current evidence is exceedingly limited.

Talk about seeking diverse sources of information…

Ask: “Other than news articles, or media where else can you go for information?

Talk about distinguishing between whether something ever happens and whether it is happening at a frequency that matters.

Ask: “When do you read about a side effect of the vaccine, how would you find out how often it happens?”

Bring the conversation towards points where a young person feels like they would know where to go if they wanted to clarify something, both online and offline.

Ask: “Let’s figure out a list of reputable websites about vaccinations online? And people who you could talk to in person?”

Something to try:

Encourage the young person to establish a doubt club. A place to share, chat about and ‘sense’ check online content.

When creating a doubt club, think of including someone:

  • with a different view from your own
  • with more experience than you
  • who can help validate what you
  • have discovered.

Think of including a sibling or friend, a grandparent, or a teacher?

The first rule of doubt club is establishing that it’s a safe and open-minded place to share thoughts and content.

Family doubt clubs can be a good place to start. Chances are family members all use different platforms and have pretty different feeds.

Find tools and conversation starters for building trust:

  • How to initiate a doubt club
  • Support for teens and children

See the ‘Covid Conversations’ resources.

Participating in life

Why do we feel certain ways and how do we respond?

Some people might be finding themselves in a state of self-imposed lockdown.

Fear and anxiety impact their choices, and it’s starting to affect day-to-day life.

Acknowledging why a person might be feeling this way and how they can respond can help them navigate.

You can help develop skills and strategies about how to sit with social anxiety.

Ask: “What is your biggest concern?”, “Did you know just like any other skill, being social takes practice?”

Set some achievable goals towards participation in social events, knowing what their limits are.

Ask: “What are you missing out on, and what can you do?”, “What are some small goals that you would like to achieve in the coming weeks?”

Something to try:

Identify a situation and use the decision-maker tool to decide on the outcome.

Sometimes it is okay to not have to do something but it’s important to think of each scenario independently. It can be easier to just say ‘no’ but it won’t help long-term.

Find resources about post-Covid anxieties and how to manage them:

  • Tips to cope with anxiety.
  • Understanding social anxiety.
  • How to support people with anxiety.
  • Media sharing what life with anxiety can be like.

See the ‘Covid Conversations’ resources.

Going on the journey

What are practical things we should know?

Navigating new systems can be scary and confronting.

You might need to provide practical information or support to help people who want to get vaccinated but don’t know how.

This could be educating a young person on how a system works. For example, how to book a time to see a GP.

They may need help on how to get their documentation sorted like their myGov account.

Have a conversation about who they could go to if they have a question that an informed professional would best answer. Talk about how they would go about asking for information.

Ask: “Did you know a GP can help with a mental health plan?”, “Do you have a doctor that you can ask for advice?”

The goal is to help a young person know there are avenues they can go to find further guidance from trusted experts. That expert could be a doctor or counsellor or a trusted platform.

Something to try:

Pose a scenario and together define how a person may go about finding support and maybe even a solution.

Ask: “Which vaccine is right for a booster shot? There are so many different ones.”, “Who do you know who might have the answer to this question?”

Find more tools and information about accessing practical help:

  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
  • Support for youth
  • How to find vaccination hubs

See the ‘Covid Conversations’ resources.

There are many scenarios, no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, and no two conversations will be the same.

In looking at all scenarios it’s important to know that changing your mind is not a bad thing!

Often it’s the everyday realities that need to be observed directly and talking through things is often the best way to do this! Otherwise, we can often just go through the motions and miss out on an opportunity to make a conscious decision!

One tool, or a combination of tools, can help a person make the right choices for them, and understand their decisions.

There are many existing resources to access for support. See the ‘Covid Conversations’ resources, or visit the Barwon Adolescent Taskforce website at


This project was supported by the Victorian Government, developed by BATForce, and driven by the Co+Chat members.

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