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Talking to Your Kids About Coronavirus

By Once Upon a Farm HealthMotherhood

Natasha Beck aka Dr. Organic Mommy is a mom of three with two fur babies and she’s here to teach us about Coronavirus. She has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology specializing in pediatric neuropsychology. She has a masters in public health and a BA in Neuroscience and Psychology. She is also certified in leadership education in neuro-developmental disabilities from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Keep up with her Parenting, Pregnancy and Clean Living tips on Instagram @Dr.OrganicMommy or on her website!

So, how do you talk to your kids about Coronavirus (COVID-19)? I have put together my top tips for handling the current Coronavirus situation with your kids. I have also included at the bottom some of my “approved” technology if your kids are home from school for weeks on end.

  1. Teaching kids how to wash hands. This is something that we CAN control. Some schools are showing kids videos of how to properly wash their hands. I did a video and it is in my Coronavirus highlights on Instagram for you to see. They need to soak their hands to clean in between their fingers, and on the top and bottom of their hands. You should see the white foam. I usually sing the happy birthday song two times in a row (because my kids sing too fast). When washing hands- you can even make it a competition: who can make their hands more foamy? who can wash their hands the longest? etc. Washing hands should not just be before meals, but each time you come inside, each time you sneeze, or put hands in their mouth, etc.

  2. Limit the news you watch around your kids and talking about it in front of them. If you feel you need to be informed, plug in headphones and listen on your phone while focusing on your phone. This is especially important if you are home with them all day. It’s best to not bring it up to kids under the age of 5-7. For kids who are older, you may ask them what they have heard about the virus? This is the time to listen. You have to make sure to control your own anxiety as children will sense it and that might scare them. If you remain calm, so will they. If you do have a freak out moment, just own it. Ie: “I was really worried, but now I am better. I know that the doctors are doing their job to keep everyone healthy and take care of them. It is my job to keep you healthy and safe. We are staying home and get to have lots of fun together. Your job is to play!”

  3. Solidify the child’s core belief that they and their world are safe. That is something that even adults are having difficulty understanding right now. With so much tragedy and uncertainty (i.e. Kobe Bryant’s death and the fires in LA), it can be a lot for kids. If your kids tell you they are scared, acknowledge that feeling and validate it, “it is scary.” If they ask if they are going to die, you can validate their fears again by saying “it seems like you are really scared.” And then you can relate it to a time you were scared as a child. “I remember being scared when there was a fire in my kitchen and I thought I was going to get hurt, but the firefighters came and put the fire out.” And I would add, “There are lots of doctors out there helping to keep everyone safe and healthy.” For little kids, if they ask why they are staying home, it’s okay to say, “there are some tiny tiny bugs that the schools are going around to clean. So we get to stay home and have lots of fun being together.”  It is important during this time at home that you try to keep the routine as similar as possible.

  4. Allow your child to process what is going on in their playtime. They may want to dress up as a doctor, they may want to “take care of someone who is sick.” Do not interfere in their play; allow it to unfold. Some kids may ask what is coronavirus? You can explain how there are different types of viruses, some that make your tummy sick, some that make your nose hurt, etc.  For older kids asking about the virus and are aware of term, you may say “Scientists are working really hard to study the virus.” For older kids elementary aged kids(9/10 and up), you can go on and say “they are sharing their research with doctors to help keep everyone safe.”

  5. IF they ask you a question that you are unable to answer or do not feel comfortable answering, Do NOT feel the need to answer right away. Instead say to them- “That is a great question and I really want to think about the answer and I will get back to you.”  Remember kids move on pretty quickly as long as they know they are safe and being taken care of. You want to try and shield them from the stress of worrying, as they don’t need that concern. You want to keep your answers concise and only answer the direct question if possible. If they continue to ask more questions, like how is this virus different? You can say “this virus is new so lots of scientists are studying it and figuring out how to keep everyone healthy.”

*Yes, it may be hard to be home all day with your kids. Here are some “Dr Organic Mommy Approved” technology to help you.

  1. Sparkle Stories app (available on the iPhone).
  2. Mr Rogers Neighborhood. I got the black and white episodes on iTunes and the more recent ones are on YouTube.
  3. For your older kids or kids who may not be afraid of this, check out Planet Earth on iTunes.

While kids are at home during Coronavirus self-quarantine, try to keep routine the same. Breakfast, brushing teeth, changing out of pjs, play, morning snack, play, lunch, nap or quiet time… afternoon snack, outside play or water play in bathtub, dinner, bath and sleep!

And, as always, practice healthy habits to keep your family healthy and happy throughout this tough time.

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