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Helping Children Understand COVID-19

Friday, June 05, 2020 8:22 AM

During this time, it's important to help your children feel well-informed about COVID-19. Use simple language they can understand and allow them to ask questions or share how they are feeling. Try to underreact to anything surprising, but answer honestly and gently. 

Teaching Kids about Coronavirus

Certified Child Life Specialist Carly Abate, MS, CCLS, CEIM and Child Life Services Coordinator, Katelyn Beyer, CCLS, offer these tips when talking with children regarding COVID-19.

Common Questions Children Have:

What is COVID-19 (Coronavirus)?
COVID-19 is a new virus that we are still learning about. Doctors say it is similar to the flu and many people who catch it can stay home, rest and get better. Some people who need more help to get better will see their doctor or go to a hospital for treatment.

Can I catch it?
Yes, it is possible for you to catch the virus, but washing your hands and staying home will help you not catch it.

When should I wear a mask?
You don’t need to wear a mask when you are at home, but you are required to wear a mask when you are outside or in public places like grocery stores. You will also need to stay 6 feet or more away from other people.

Can you die from COVID-19?
Most people who catch the virus do not die. But because this is a new virus, doctors are still working hard to take care of people and keep the virus from spreading.

Hand Hygiene:

  • Use discussions about the virus and safety to teach and encourage proper hygiene. Practice proper handwashing and practice social distancing.
  • Make handwashing a game with a sticker chart and small prizes.

Safe Social Distance:

  • Social distancing is a new concept for children and offers new opportunities to use electronics to virtually connect with friends or loved ones.
  • Work with your child to come up with new ideas to connect virtually and maintain social distancing.
  • Use the Marco Polo app to send videos back and forth.
  • Play online games with family and friends.
  • Think "imagination" instead of isolation!

Reflect & Express:

Children by nature are very perceptive. They know this virus is happening and they need support from their parents and families. Ignoring the virus or not talking about it can make their worries bigger. Help your children reflect on what they know or think about the virus, and give them outlets for expressing their emotions.

  • Draw pictures of what the virus might look and feel like.
  • Create an art space table with play dough, clay, paint, beads, sequins, or other supplies and let them create what they think the virus might look like. Share their creations.
  • Make specific “share times” during the day for your child to ask questions or check-in with worries.
  • Have meal-time check-ins where everyone shares one thing that is bothering them, one thing they are excited about and one thing they are happy about.
  • Practice expressing different emotions, for example, squeeze a pillow and breath out anger; video chat with someone they love for sadness; talk about things they can control in their environment/life for fear.

Control & Consistency:

Children thrive on routine. The virus has obviously disrupted all our normal routines, involve your children in creating a daily schedule. Give them small jobs and chances to make choices for the family, like what to eat or watch on television. Children need to feel some control of their environment to feel successful.

  • Create a schedule for each day of the week.
  • Invite children to provide input in schedules.
  • Maintain normal bedtime and wakeup routines, get ready for the day like they are going to school.
  • Make a list of jobs they can do to help around the house.
  • Allow them to have choices throughout the day.
  • If they CAN do something, they SHOULD do something.

Do Your Part Together:

We are all in this together. Help children come up with ideas to help the community. Children may be experiencing a lack of socialization, sense of purpose, contentment and drive. Sit down as a family and find ways to help others and spend time with others (with safe social distancing).

  • Write thank you cards to public health officials and frontline workers.
  • Create a Go Fund Me page to raise money for healthcare organizations.
  • Talk to community hospitals to see how you can help them.
  • Create posters for your windows to remind neighbors that we are all in this together.
  • Look for new ways to help the community around you.