The coronavirus pandemic has meant some serious steps to protect the health of the general public. With children out of school in many parts of the country, it might be raising questions for your child.It is important that you discuss the crisis with your child so that their questions don’t just build and cause them fear and anxiety unnecessarily. Additionally, if you don’t answer older children’s questions, they might go to the internet for those answers where there is a great deal of misinformation or details that might frighten your child. While it certainly isn’t an easy conversation to have with your child, it’s one you should initiate as soon as possible. Here are some things to keep in mind as you discuss the topic with your child.
This week in the Childcare Experts Podcast we dive deeper into the topic.
Talk to them based on their developmental phase Younger children will need a different message than older children. Tailor your message based on your child’s age and developmental phase.
For example, your preschool-aged child might need you to make the situation very simple. You can explain how there is an illness that is spreading that can make some people very sick. Be sure to tell your preschooler that they should not be worried. Encourage the child to wash their hands regularly and stay at home to protect everyone. The concept of a virus might be tough for them to understand, but you can tell them about germs and how the more you go to normal activities, such as school, the more chance there is for people to get sick.
If it seems as though your child is not understanding the problem, try to show them how germs spread. Use stickers on different pieces of paper to illustrate how germs attach themselves and move from one person to another and how hand washing can help prevent the issue.
Reassure your child as much as you can These conversations are heavy and difficult to cover in a positive light, but it’s very important to reassure your child that there is no need to be worried about the situation. Doctors and nurses are here to help, and they know what they are doing to help protect people. You certainly don’t want to lie to your child and make the pandemic seem like no big deal as that notion conflicts with what your child is seeing with school cancelations and cancelations to other activities, such as gymnastics classes or piano lessons. Remember that children are observant, and they can make these sorts of connections to understand what is really happening.
Keep up daily routines as much as possible Children thrive on routine. Do what you can to keep up with routines, even while life is extremely disrupted. While they might not be enrolled in school, you should still plan for learning activities at the same time as school is normally scheduled. And, set up a time for physical education. This is a good way to get outside in a safe way without putting others at risk with social activities or public places. Encourage your child to play in the backyard, ride their bikes in the neighborhood or be active indoors when the weather is bad. You could throw an indoor dance party, which also builds fun memories with your child.
Try to keep lunch and snack times at a normal schedule. Otherwise, you might find yourself in the kitchen constantly preparing food and struggling to get schooling in or complete work if you’re working from home or get schooling done with your child. The more routine you keep, the better for both you and your child.
Keep up with bedtimes and normal rising times in the morning as well. This way, when children return to school, they will not struggle as much with getting back into the swing of things. Plus, proper sleep can also help children feel their best, which can reduce anxiety during these times of uncertainty.
Discuss what you can do proactively at home Giving children proactive and productive activities at home that prevent the spread of the virus can help them better grasp the situation and feel good knowing they are doing their part. Plus, ensuring that you’re doing the recommended activities can also build upon things that children were learning in school. More than likely, teachers discussed good hygiene with children in the final weeks of school as the coronavirus became more of a concern before school canceled. Or if your child is still in school, they are likely having these conversations with your child.
Proactive things you can do at home include:
- Regular hand washing. This includes washing hands any time before eating, after coming inside from playing outdoors, after coming home from grocery shopping, etc.
- Encourage children to not touch their faces. This one can be really tough for young children.
- Remain at home when you don’t feel well. Regardless of whether or not you think it is the coronavirus that is making you feel sick or something else, you should avoid spreading the illness.
- Staying home from activities. If your child used to go grocery shopping with you and no longer does due to preventing social interactions, it might be tough for them to understand why they can no longer go with you. Explain the importance of staying at home during this time.
- FaceTime, Skype or otherwise videoconference with family members. Explain to your child that digital communication instead of seeing friends and family in person right now can help prevent getting other people sick.
Answer their questions and encourage them to keep asking questions Once you get done explaining the coronavirus crisis, ask children if they have any questions. Take the time to thoroughly answer those questions as best you can. And when you finish answering those questions, make it clear that they can come to you with any questions that arise later on.
Again, when children hold these questions in, it can build fear and anxiety for them. And more than likely, it’s on topics that they just don’t understand. You can’t clear up questions that you don’t know about. So do your best to bring up the topic often to check and see if your child has questions.
Communicate with your children regularly The situation with the coronavirus is constantly changing and because of that, you must communicate with children regularly. Over the last few weeks, children's activities have changed rapidly, and it might feel like they’re waiting for the next thing to happen. It’s important that you reassure your child regularly that they are going to be fine.
While these conversations are hard, they are extremely important to have with your child. Do your best and realize that it doesn’t