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Have you talked with your children about COVID-19? We could all benefit from hearing how other parents handle this conversation with kids of all ages. We asked NorthShore physicians to share the conversations they have had with their children.
Here’s what they told us:
Sharon Robinson, MD, Pediatrics"There’s a lesson in every struggle. This pandemic is teaching you resilience, flexibility, empathy and the importance of a growth mindset. Even though your classroom experience will look very different this year, you are acquiring skills that no textbook can provide. These are characteristics that will stay with you for a lifetime and will make you a better person."
Jennifer Grant, MD, Infectious Disease, children ages 1 and 5"Like many children, my 5-year-old son loves superheroes. We told him that a face mask is pretty cool to wear because he can pretend he is a coronavirus fighting superhero! And it helps that we found masks featuring his favorite things, like the Cubs and rocket ships and dinosaurs. Aside from the fun and games, we treat it like a necessary article of clothing and have made it a habit. It was hard at first but now has become second nature. Just like when it’s cold outside and we need to wear hats and gloves, or when we are riding bikes and need to wear helmets. Now that we have COVID around, we need to wear our masks in public places to protect ourselves and to protect others. After getting over the initial hump, incorporating it into our routine was easier than I thought. Kids truly are resilient and adaptive!"
Sapana Shah, MD, Emergency Medicine, children ages 7 and 13"My attempt to quell my daughters’ concerns regarding COVID-19 have consisted of reassuring them that this is temporary. That, with time, we will find a way to get this under control. Until then, this has been an opportunity for us. An opportunity to reconnect as a family, an opportunity to learn the proper way to wash our hands, and clean our surroundings. Most importantly, the opportunity to take care of others by wearing a mask, by covering our coughs and by supporting one another if and when we feel ill. As an Emergency Physician, the best way to calm the fears of my daughters was by being on the front lines facing this virus head-on, and showing them that we can beat it by working together."
Lakshmi Halasyamani, MD, Chief Quality Control and Transformation Officer, children ages 17 and 23"While we all wish that we had answers that were black and white and absolute, we realize that we live in a world with a lot of gray and our choices are really about reducing our risks. When we drive in a car, we reduce our risk of an accident by making sure our seatbelt is on, that we are going the speed limit, that we are not distracted or impaired, that our vehicle is safe, and the roads we choose to drive on have good visibility, are in good repair, and well-lit. A lot of how this goes is up to us. So, we need to make similar choices to protect ourselves and others from COVID – perform hand hygiene, wear a mask, stay home if you are sick, and maintain physical distance. These don’t take the risk away fully, but just like all the things we do to drive safely, we shift the narrative from being a victim to a person with an agency who can contribute to and shape our personal and collective outcomes."
Anand Srinivasan, MD, Orthopaedic & Spine Institute, children in preschool and 2nd grade"I tell the younger one that wearing a mask and washing hands are important to block germs. He reinforces this by stating “I don’t want to share your germs.” As far as the older one, we tell him the truth – there is a new virus to which we do not have immunity. We have to do our part through wearing masks and social distancing to help slow down the spread until a vaccine can be developed. Keeping him, his family, and his friends safe is the important thing and we have to change how we learn and play in order to help.
Stacy Brown, MD, OBGYN, Swedish Medical GroupI have a 3-year-old son and we talk a lot about the virus. We talked about how our lungs need air to go in and out for us to be healthy. The virus can get into our lungs and make it hard for air to get in and out, so we need to avoid the virus. We can avoid the virus by "giving people space" on our walks, wearing masks at school, and washing hands every time we get home. I feel like we followed a simple, matter of fact explanation of why we are doing what we are doing and he's onboard. If anything, he's the enforcer - more than once he has made us step to the side of the sidewalk to "give people space." Despite all the changes in his life, resilience and hope are built into children. He was just telling me the virus will be gone by Christmas, and I'm hopeful that is the direction we are headed."