Discussing Infection Protection with your childrenSeptember 21, 2020 1:18 pm
Talking to Kids About Infection Protection
Talk of the coronavirus pandemic has become part of our daily conversations especially with schools opening up in New Jersey and some using the hybrid scheduling with a few days in school per week. Naturally, our kids hear a lot about the virus as well—some true, some not so much—and it has led to stress and anxiety for kids and parents as questions continue to rise about what to do to protect ourselves.
It’s important to have open, honest, and accurate conversations with our kids about COVID-19. By talking with kids about what they can do to keep themselves safe and keep the conversation open to their questions, you can help them get a better understanding of what’s happening, and how they should deal with it, relieve them of some of their fears and uncertainties. That plays a large part in helping them feel more in control in a constantly changing world. Here are some tips on how to talk to your kids about staying safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Stay calm: Remind your kids that they are safe and it is OK to feel afraid or upset. They can come to you with questions or concerns about COVID-19 anytime.
- Define the virus and how it spreads: COVID-19 is a new virus and we know it can cause fevers, coughing, or make it hard to breath. The virus most often enters people’s bodies when it’s on their hands and they touch their mouth, nose, or eyes.
- Promote hygiene: Encourage and demonstrate frequent proper handwashing by making bubbles and singing the happy birthday song twice to time yourself. Explain how to wear a mask and social distancing.
- Lower stress at home: Keep things light, and reinforce that there’s life beyond the virus. Providing a structured schedule with regular meal times, activities, chores and bedtimes will help children feel in control of their daily situation. Make time to get together as a family outside of the digital world.
- Avoid blame: Take extra care not to blame specific people or groups of people, as this can lead to stigmas and false conclusions.
How Do I Talk to My Kids About Infection Protection?
Before speaking with your kids about COVID-19, make sure that you are up to speed on the latest findings and recommendations by reading the guidelines provided by major health organizations like the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO), as well as any state and local guidance.
Uncertainty, disruption to routine, and shifting information is frustrating and scary for kids, so it’s important to approach the conversation with a solid understanding of current information to answer their questions. Choose a time that’s easy and comfortable for your kids to engage in conversation, like around the dinner table.
Stay Calm: Children are very perceptive and will react not only to what you say but how you say it. Make a point of explaining what’s happening in a calm and confident manner.
Offer Reassurance: Remind them that they are safe and that it is OK to feel afraid or upset. That’s why you are there to discuss it with them, whenever they need. Share that you also feel that way sometimes, and empathize with their feelings. Seeing that they are not alone, and watching how you deal with it, will help them learn to cope.
Make Yourself Available: Explain that this is not a one-time discussion or a taboo issue, and that they can come to you with questions or concerns about COVID-19 anytime.
How Do I Explain the Coronavirus?
There are so many terms and names being thrown around, it may be confusing for your child to figure out what is what. In having this discussion, it’s important to make sure they’ve got some basics nailed down.
Define the Virus: Explain that “COVID-19” and “COVID” is caused by a new germ (virus) that doctors and scientists are still learning about. When people get this disease they may get a cough, fever or have difficulty breathing, but many people, kids especially, may not have any symptoms or may just feel like they have a slight cold.
Explain How it Spreads: The virus is so tiny that you can’t see it—that’s why it’s important to keep our hands clean and our facemasks on when we are within six feet of other people outside our family. The COVID-19 virus most often enters people’s bodies when it’s on their hands and they touch their mouth, nose, or eyes. The virus is also spread when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes and the virus enters the air around them, where it can be breathed in by others.
Explain What’s Being Done to Fight the Virus: Tell them that the reason they hear so much about it is because it’s a new disease and doctors and scientists are working hard every day on ways to keep people safe and healthy.
How Do I Explain Pandemic Hygiene to My Kids?
One Step at a Time: Start with the basics, like encouraging frequent and proper handwashing, and explaining when and how a mask should be worn including over the nose. Show them how they can help keep surfaces and spaces in the house clean.
Demonstrate Proper Hand Washing and Hygiene: Explain how and when hands should be washed—like after sneezing or before preparing food, for instance—and provide tips on how exactly to wash their hands.
- Encourage them to make tiny bubbles by rubbing the soap between their hands and fingers, and to make sure they cover all parts of their hands and forearms.
- Tell them they should sing the Happy Birthday song twice while scrubbing before rinsing with warm water.
- Show them how to properly cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of the arm if one is not available, and how to properly dispose of tissues, paper towels, etc.
Explain Social Distancing: Explain that because people don’t always show symptoms, it’s important to keep a safe distance from others when out in public and to wear a facemask whenever you cannot keep a safe six foot distance. To make it easy, you may want to create a simple rule, like whenever we go out, we put our masks on. Encourage them to wave and smile to say hello, instead of hugs or handshakes.
Reinforce Other Ways to Stay Healthy: Maintaining good health is a comprehensive effort and by eating well, exercising and getting enough rest we can help keep our bodies strong and prepared to fight away a virus.
How Do I Help My Kids Cope With the Stress of COVID-19?
Remain Calm: Like we covered earlier, anything you project, your kids are likely to pick up on. Stay calm and collected and set an example for how to take on virus precautions in a confident, hopeful and positive way.
Create a Routine: Structure given by regular meal times, activities, chores and bedtimes will help children feel in control of their daily situation. Use a whiteboard or other ways to keep track of what’s done and what’s to come.
Limit the News: Constant news about the virus on TV and social media may feed into the fear a child is already feeling about the virus. Constant intake will also increase the chances they are exposed to rumors and misinformation. Be wary of how much news they consume, or you consume around them, and be careful about how you express any fears in front of them.
Unplug and Socialize: Make time to get together as a family outside of the digital world, playing games, building puzzles, drawing pictures, etc. This will help keep things light, and reinforce that there’s life beyond the virus. It may be a well-needed break for all!
Connect Virtually: Because in-person socializing is so curtailed, you can help your children feel less isolated by embracing digital connection with them, video conferencing or calling family or friends and hosting group hangouts online.
Avoid Blame: Take extra care not to blame specific people or groups of people, as this can lead to stigmas and false conclusions.
People experience different symptoms and reactions to COVID-19, and the majority of people who do get infected do not get very sick. It’s important to be extra attentive to symptoms during this time, but also to remain sensible and calm—not every cough or sniffle will be COVID-19.
If you suspect that you or your children may be sick, contact Central Jersey Urgent Care to let us know you will be coming in.
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This post was written by CJ Urgent Care of NJ