Who thought as a parent you would be explaining a pandemic to kids? It’s difficult enough for us as adults to wrap our heads around what is going on right now. It is important that we explain to our kids what is going on as best we can, but in a way that isn’t scary.
Hands on learning
A fun way to learn about germs is to do an little experiment. Take a small bowl or plate and fill it with water. sprinkle enough pepper to cover the surface. Have your child place their finger in the pepper water. The pepper will stick to their finger. In a small bowl, pour a small amount of dish detergent. Have your child dip a clean finger in the soap, then place that finger in the pepper water. The pepper will “run away” from the soap! This is a great way to teach how germs and handwashing works!
Set a goal for hand washing. At the beginning of the day, draw a smiling face, heart, ect or use a stamp on your child’s hand. The goal is to have it washed off by the end of the day!
You can also order Glo Germ which is a lotion that shows how germs spread with a black light. Use the Glo Germ on your child’s hands. After they have played for a while, go on a search with the black light to see where all their germs went. This is a great way to show how they spread germs. Be sure to check the hands of other family members to see if they were “infected”.
HOW to talk about COVID-19
Our children look to us on how to respond to things, especially unknown things. If you are visibly upset, stressed or talking about your concerns, children will pick up on this and worry as well.
When you discuss the pandemic, be calm and assure them that there are plans in place and everyone is working together!
Don’t make this about clean or dirty! ANYONE could get this! One thing I have learned about this is I touch my face A LOT!!!!! You don’t want to create a stigma around who gets COVID-19.
Do not give them more information than they need. Preschoolers simply need to know that there is a bad germ out there that is spread VERY EASILY. It can make people sick and it is important we don’t spread it around!
Talk about the different ways to stop the germs from spreading such as handwashing, sneezing and coughing into your elbow and when blowing your nose, throwing the tissue away immediately.
What NOT to do
You could watch pandemic coverage 24/7 if you chose to. Much of the coverage can be overwhelming and not appropriate. Do not let your child watch news coverage or see posts that could cause anxiety.
DO NOT tell your child that if they give COVID-19 to grandma or grandpa it could kill them. We are all aware that COVID-19 is much more dangerous to our elderly population, but do we really want a child carrying that guilt, should grandma and grandpa get sick?
Keep your child away from older friends and relatives. This is a great time to make cards and mail them, teach older relatives how to FaceTime and make special phone calls to keep in touch.
Let your child ask questions. If you don’t know, have them help you look up the answers. You can certainly censor the information should it be inappropriate.
Be available to listen, if your child needs to talk. Sometimes a conversation about something completely different may turn into their thoughts or worries about COVID-19. This gives you the opportunity to reassure them that everything will be okay.
The world is changing right now. There is a lot that is out of our control. Just imagine how a child feels right now. This is the time to help children navigate this pandemic in the healthiest (mentally AND physically) way possible!