- Autumn Quiles, LCSW
Kids and COVID-19
COVID-19 is a Coronavirus (there are several types of Coronavirus) that is currently spreading across the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of today, there are nearly 125,000 confirmed cases across 118 countries, areas or territories. China, Italy, Iran and South Korea seem to be the countries most prominently affected. The WHO has declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic.
The United States Center for Disease Control has been providing information and support to Americans who want to learn about, and try to prevent, spread of the virus. Major national organizations (like the NBA) are taking steps to try and prevent spread of the virus. Here in our little community, our neighborhood organizations and businesses are making hygiene and health a big priority.
In the past few days, I have seen an increase in anxiety about COVID-19 in both kids and their parents. Kids are getting plenty of information (and sometimes misinformation) from their peers at school. Parents are trying to physically prepare (there is no toilet paper- I mean NO toilet paper- in the local grocery stores), but they are also wondering... how can I support my kid's safe and healthy understanding of this virus, the need for preparation and, if necessary, the need to respond to an outbreak here in lil' ole' Boca Raton.
Talking to your kids about COVID-19 is a lot like talking to them about any potential threat to our community... It is similar to the discussions we have about hurricanes or acts of mass violence. The key is to:
A) Be Informed
B) Stay Calm
C) Stick to the Facts and
D) Focus on Safety
Articles published by Child Mind Institute and the CDC give some specific approaches for talking with your little people. One of the best things they both emphasize is how important it is for a child to practice good hygiene- specifically hand-washing- to prevent spread of the virus. I feel like this is a critical point because hand-washing is an action- something a person can do- to feel more in-control or power-ful in response to the potential threat. Kinda like stocking up on supplies before a storm.
I was particularly happy to see an article published on the PBS kids website, written by a Mom and parent educator, that specifically details how to teach your kids about good hygiene. She even lists several PBS kids episodes (with our favorite characters- Daniel Tiger, Curious George and the Super Why team) that are geared to teach kids, in a fun and stress-free way, about good hygiene habits! I love me a good cartoon about cleanliness! :)
I also saw that the Department of Psychiatry at LSU is working on guidelines to support children in China who must be isolated because of the virus. They wrote a fantastic article, with a page of recommendations, for how to support kids in isolation. I thought this was valuable as many parents here are considering self-isolation and their first question is: what in the world will I do with these kids once we isolate? A Mom in Wuhan, China wrote a great Facebook post about what has happened in her family during their 48-day period of isolation.
Our kids are looking to us to be the Captain of The Ship... The people in-charge during this storm of uncertainty. Being a strong and confident parent to our kids in these moments is the key to keeping anxiety levels low and managing this stressor in the best way possible.