Lower School Nurse Kathy Sheffield provided the following guidelines for parents to help their children navigate the coronavirus pandemic with good information and healthy practices. Below, we share her recommendations.
First of all, we need to remain calm and reassuring. Children will follow your lead, so if you appear to be calm, they will be, too. Remind them that the adults at home and at school are doing everything they can to keep the children safe.
Second, be open and honest about what the virus is (a germ that we cannot see that is similar to the one that causes the cold and flu) and how we can avoid getting those germs into our bodies. Use age-appropriate terms. Ask them if they have any specific concerns or questions and let them know that you are available to talk if they need to. Knowledge is power, and children are often comforted by the fact that you have shared this information with them.
Third, monitor your child’s access to television and social media. Unfortunately, the media sometimes use scare tactics to inform the public rather than just imparting the facts. Excessive exposure to the media and the COVID-19 reports can be anxiety producing in children and adults, so limit time spent in front of a screen.
Fourth, try to maintain as normal a routine as possible. A routine for most children is reassuring and promotes good health. If you or your child is quarantined, try to communicate with them often through FaceTime or phone calls to reassure them that you are all right. Calling or using FaceTime with them at bedtime to read a book before bed or to sing to them can be very reassuring.
Finally, have a plan for your family to avoid contracting the virus. Model good handwashing techniques for your children. Encourage them to be “germ busters” with you, and follow these five magical tips for avoiding the virus:
- Stay at home when possible. We don’t want to catch these germs from other people and wouldn’t want to share them if we have them.
- Use your elbow when you sneeze or cough.
- If your hands touch things that other people have touched, wash your hands with soap and water. You should wash them to the tune of the ABCs song to ensure that you’ve washed them long enough.
- Keep a distance from others when you go outside and travel from place to place. Social distancing can stop the spread of the virus.
- Keep your hands away from your face. These germs like to get into our bodies through our nose and mouth, so don’t give the germs a chance by touching your face.
You can have children make posters with these tips on them to hang around the house. Make “germ buster” capes out of old T-shirts or pillow cases. Make “germ-buster” masks out of paper plates. Giving children projects helps them feel included in our fight against this virus.
Wishing you well!
- Yucky Bug by Julia Cook (A very informative book written by children’s author, Julia Cook, and illustrated by children. A child reads the book in this YouTube video.)
- NPR podcast Just for Kids (A great podcast for older children that describes the virus and what we can do to prevent its spread.)
- Harvard article about talking to children about the coronavirus (This article was updated this week with some great tips for talking to children about COVID-19. There is also a blog about talking to teens.)