Imagine what it’s like to be kid today: you’ve lost the routine of school, can’t see your friends or go play, can’t even hug your grandparents and suddenly see everyone wearing facemasks. It feels scary to adults and professionals, it certainly feels scary to kids.
Stress affects children differently than adults, and many children will not have the tools to express the feelings they are experiencing. Start with helping them understand why we are all taking these precautions, said Dr. Kenneth Thomas, Director of Children’s Services, Swope Health.
“It is important that kids understand that these actions are designed to protect everyone,” Dr. Thomas said. “Help them understand that by following the rules – washing their hands, staying 6 feet apart and wearing a mask — they have a role in keeping everyone in the family safe.”
This is not to punish anyone, he added. “It is to keep us all safe. We each protect the other,” he said. “I protect you, you protect me.”
Also, Dr. Thomas added, giving your kids time to voice their fears, anxiety and frustrations is a good idea. Reassure them that life will return to normal eventually, although it might be a “new normal” and that’s OK. “Point out what good has been discovered because of all this,” he added.
Here are some additional suggestions for helping your kids stay safe.
Wash your hands.
We know that frequent hand washing is the best way to stop the spread of germs. When should you wash your hands? Wash after sneezing or coughing, after playtime, before handing food and after using the bathroom. Teaching your children these healthy habits now will lead to a heathier life in the future.
Maintain physical distancing.
While the stay-in-place orders are lifting and our communities are going back to business, it is still important to maintain physical distancing and avoid physical contact. The virus travels partially through the air in our saliva or mucus, which can spread through talking, singing and laughing, as well as coughing or sneezing. The closer we are, the more likely we are to spread the virus to the people we love. It is important to explain to out children that by keeping this distance we are saying “I love you” until we can hug our loved ones again.
Limit Screen time.
Studies already show that screen time does not help children’s brain development, but kids do love playing on smartphones and tablets. Find different ways that children can be creative. For example: Have family stretching time where you and the whole family take a moment to turn off the screen and tune into the movement of your body.
Lead by Example.
Children are always watching how we live our lives and often act out the same behaviors they see. It is important that you model the behavior you want your children to have.
Remember that you are the first line of defense when it comes to advocating for your health and the health of your child.
Swope Health Kids Care is ready for your children and their healthcare needs. Call us at 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment.
For more information on how to help your child during the time of COVID-19:
- Parenting and Caregiving during COVID-19 from the American Psychological Association
- Talking to kids about COVID-19 from In Our Sleeves, the movement to transform children’s mental health
- Healthy Children Parenting tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Talking with Children about Coronavirus from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection