With social distancing becoming the new temporary norm for families across the country, many parents have been searching for ways to explain the pandemic to their little ones in a way that will help them understand things better. Suddenly changing your routines can cause quite a bit of confusion and chaos in an otherwise well-oiled family schedule, but with so much riding on our ability to put our collective health and safety first, it’s important to find effective ways to help children understand not only why we are practicing social distancing, but also, how they can help stop the spread. If you’re looking for ways to help your child comprehend the changes brought about by COVID-19, here are a few tips to help:
1 – Do a Little Research
If you haven’t already, the best thing you can do before speaking to your children about the COVID-19 pandemic is to make sure you have the most accurate and up-to-date information about it first. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has an online link to inform the public about the outbreak and how they can help their families navigate through it.
2 – Explain the Facts and be Honest
Once you’ve done your research, talk to your children about what’s going on. Explain to them what COVID-19 is, how it affects the population, what happens if someone gets sick with the virus, and why we are trying to stop it from spreading. Children will be picking up all kinds of information from sources we may not realize (television, online videos, etc.), so make sure they get the facts from you first. Let them know there are many rumors out there, and you are there to answer any questions they may have.
3 – Avoid the Stigma
Try to avoid using any kind of negative connotations or accusatory tones, and simply let children know (at an age-appropriate level) that there is a virus that can cause sickness going around and we need their help to protect others. Sticking to the facts and not playing the blame-game when speaking with children will help them grasp their role in the community responsibilities of social distancing right now.
4 – Focus on Staying Calm
Since so much about this pandemic is different from our usual routines and involves many unknown aspects, it can surely be a scary time for some – especially children who don’t understand what’s going on. It’s important to speak with your kids and explain to them what’s going on, but it’s also important to be calm and patient with them when discussing the virus as well. Children can pick up on uncertainty in our tone and mannerisms, so do your best to be encouraging and calm when you speak with them.
5 – Empower Them with Responsibilities
One of the greatest ways to help children grasp the importance of social distancing and efforts to halt the spread of the virus is to empower them with a sense of responsibility. Explain to your child that they are helping to keep others healthy and break the spread of disease by practicing basic actions every day. Stress the importance of (proper) handwashing, coughing and sneezing into their elbows, distancing themselves from others who cough or sneeze, and to try and limit how much they touch their faces. Giving kids the power of knowledge and a sense of responsibility to help stop the spread of germs is the best way to explain the current social distancing situation.