By Ayo Avworo DNP, APRN, FNP-BC
As conversations around coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) increase and school districts extend classroom closures, children may worry about themselves, their family, and friends getting ill with COVID-19. Parents and trusted adults can play an important role in helping children make sense of what they hear in a way that is honest, accurate, and minimizes anxiety and fear. Here is some guidance to help adults have conversations:
- Remain calm and reassuring
*Remember that children will react to both what you say and how you say it.
- Make yourself available to listen and to talk
*Be sure children know they can come to you when they have questions.
- Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online
*Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety.
- Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma
*Remember that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity.
- Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs
*Remind children to stay away from people who are coughing or sick.
*Get children into a handwashing habit and compliment them. Teach them to wash their hands with soap and water especially before preparing food or eating, after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing, after coming inside from playing outdoors, or going to the bathroom.
* If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Provide information that is honest and accurate
*Give information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child. Example: Scientists and Doctors think that most people will be ok, especially kids, but some people might get sick.
- Keep children engaged
*When children are out of school (and as parents work from home), they are physically less active, have much longer screen time, …
√ Make some of the screen time educational. Interactive and fun educational websites like ABC Mouse, Khan Academy, PBS Kids, & Sprout might be helpful.
- Enjoy different indoor and outdoor activities: Backyard activities, hide and seek, play ball, play-doh, freeze dancing, bubbles, painting, coloring, puzzles, etc.