For children, it can be challenging to understand what is going on with the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and it may be frightening for them. For parents, it can easily become overwhelming when they start looking to you for answers.
Tiffany Pottkotter, MSN, MA, PMHNP-BC, a psychiatric nurse practitioner with ProMedica Physicians, said that her best advice is to practice role modeling.
“Children will respond how they see you respond. If you’re calm, then hopefully they will be calm, too,” she explained. “Limit what you talk about in front of your kids, and be careful not to be glued to the news or your phone for updates.”
Pottkotter also recommends not talking about the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) or death rates. Instead, focus on giving children a sense of control. Talk about the importance of washing their hands, covering their cough, sleeping well and staying connected with their friends through video chats or phone calls.
Focus on the positives, such as how fun it will be to be their teacher for a while. Ask them what new games they’d like to play and skills they’d like to learn. Have fun, but also incorporate structure and routine, too, so they have a sense of normalcy.
“We practice ‘Service Saturday’ with our kids,” says Pottkotter. “We make face masks, maybe drive by a friend’s house to honk and wave through the window, or we call Grandma. We do something nice for someone else so they feel like they are part of the solution and helping someone.”
With so much uncertainty in the air, it’s important to be prepared, especially if you have children.
If a parent or close loved one works in healthcare, Pottkotter recommends talking with your child ahead of time about what may happen if that loved one gets sick. What a quarantine would look like, how Mommy or Daddy may stay in a separate room or hotel for 7-14 days so they don’t spread their germs, how kids could still FaceTime with them.
Determine ahead of time who would watch your child if someone got sick and hospitalized and explain to your child who that “go to” person would be.
“I also recommend telling your child how some hospitals have changed their visitor policy. For instance, ‘If Mommy or Daddy get sick, it’s best you stay home so we don’t expose you to germs at the hospital.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics also offers the following tips for talking to kids about COVID-19: