Terrance L. Baker, MD, MS
Sollay Medical Center of Excellence
Hana Kelele, CRNP, PhD
Modesta Vesonder, CRNP, MS
A Family Practice Board Certified Office
CHILDREN AND THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
Questions that Children have about Coronavirus
Millions of children are home from school or day care and understand that something terrible is happening. Many younger children struggle to understand what is going on. Suddenly the children and the life of their family has been turned upside down. Parents often are demonstrating their own anxiety about what the future holds. The most important step that a parent can take is to control their own anxiety, create a schedule that creates normality within the family and demonstrate to the family that you can take care of yourself and that you can and will take care of your family. It is ok to acknowledge to your older children and even younger children that it is normal to feel some anxiety. However, with younger children it is important to project yourself as calm and organized.
Whatever their age, a lot of children have questions right now. Questions about social distancing, questions about washing their hands, questions about what happens if someone they love gets sick. The following are several questions being heard through our office at Sollay Medical Center:
- Will I get sick? What will happen if I do?
It is important not to minimize children’s fears or tell them that there is no possibility that they or their family members will not get sick. Instead, comfort the children by reporting that if they get sick then we are going to do everything we know how to do to make sure that they get better again. Doctor’s and nurses are working day and night to make sure that everybody will get better again.
- Why do I have to wash my hands so much?
The answer is to emphasize things that your family are doing to stay as healthy as possible by washing hands and avoiding social gatherings. One of the most important things that everyone can do to protect themselves and others during this pandemic is washing hands frequently. It’s ok to tell children that we wash our hands because sometimes germs get on our hands and if we don’t get rid of them they can make us sick.
Children need to know that washing our hands is one of the best ways we know of to help keep people safe. It is ok to tell the children that in our family we always wash our hands because it helps to keep us healthy. Also, hand washing can be made fun.
- When can I go back to school?
School will start again when everybody can go back to school and stay healthy. Home schooling can replace attendance at school. Children should stay in touch with classmates on Facetime or Zoom. E-learning is being set up by many school systems for children to have lessons each day.
- Why can’t I visit my friends or grandparents?
It is important to show children how they can keep in contact with grandparents and others through Facetime, letters, artwork, mobile devices, and applications without visiting them in person. Children need to know that the safer they are and the more hand washing they complete and the more careful we are to not get sick the sooner we can get to see people that we love. Good social distancing today means you will get to see your friends sooner.
- If my parents are at home, why do they have to work instead of playing with me?
Many workers in this country don’t have the option to work from home right now. A staggering number have been laid off or have had their hours cut. But for those who are able to work remotely they must teach their children the importance of staying at home to make sure that our family stays healthy and well. But even though you are staying at home you still have to work in order to help other people. You can let your child know that you will be available to take a break and play with them perhaps even setting a timer so they can see how long they have to wait until they can get your full attention. In the meantime, give your child an activity such as a puzzle, art project, book, movie or online application so that they have something to do while they are waiting for you.
- I’m not sick so why do I have to take precautions?
This question applies to teenagers and older children who may feel a certain adolescent invincibility even in the face of a virus that has many people scared. Also, there are many reports on tv and newspapers that children are less likely to be ill. Children need to know that even though that they are young and healthy they must take same precautions as everyone else to avoid becoming seriously ill. Children need to understand that even if they don’t get sick, they can pass the virus along to other people including loved ones who could become very ill and die. When it comes to social distancing, hand washing and other safety measures during this time we all have to think about who we are doing this for. This includes grandparents, people in the community with underlying conditions that put them at higher risk, healthcare workers saving lives and everyone in the country and the world who benefits from efforts to “flatten the curve”.
- How can I help?
For children that are old enough this is an opportunity for a family to develop a civic identity where parents can teach children that part of their identity is taking care of people who are vulnerable. There are many ways for children to help out. These include delivering groceries to a grandparent, donating to support service workers who may be out of work at this time. Teach children that each one of us is responsible for all of us both within our own family and around the world.
The coronavirus pandemic provides challenges for all families. However, it also provides opportunities for parents to have additional time with their children to teach them community citizenship, family loyalty and community responsibilities which starts at home with simple things like social distancing and hand washing. There has never been a better time for parents to use this opportunity to teach their children principles of love, safety, compassion and an interest in not only helping themselves but in serving the community around them.