• Call us on: 087 1736667

Coronavirus – tips for families with young children

17 Apr, 2020

Coronavirus – tips for families with young children

Tips for Families: Coronavirus

The following resources offer tips for families including age-appropriate responses to common questions, a guide to self-care, and activities for young children experiencing social distancing. The information is taken from the zerotothree website https://www.zerotothree.org/

Talking about the Coronavirus

Answering Your Young Child’s Questions About Coronavirus Even if you’ve kept your toddler away from news about COVID-19 in the media or overhearing adult conversations, they are bound to have questions. Here are some age-appropriate responses to common questions  https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/3265-answering-your-young-child-s-questions-about-coronavirus

Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus NPR presents a comic developed from an interview with Tara Powell, Joy Osofsky, PhD, and Krystal Lewis on what kids might want to know about the Coronavirus  https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/02/28/809580453/just-for-kids-a-comic-exploring-the-new-coronavirus?t=1587116167292

Why are people wearing masks? Why are people covering their faces? Read through tips to answer tough questions toddlers may ask about COVID-19

Sometimes our toddlers ask us questions that are hard to answer—especially when we’re not sure what the right answer is, like the situation many communities are facing with COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus).

For children under three years, it’s best to answer their questions simply in language they understand. If children ask about people wearing masks or other face coverings, parents can explain:

  • Sometimes people wear masks when they are sick.
  • When they are all better, they stop wearing the mask.

Sometimes children might ask follow-up questions like the ones below. At this age, it’s important to answer only the questions they ask. Avoid sharing additional information (about germs, what is contagious, etc.) that they can’t understand because of their age. Some common follow-up questions might be:

  • Is the mask a costume? (No, sometimes people wear masks when they are sick. The mask just means they are not feeling well.)
  • Can the person still talk? (Yes. The mask covers their mouth, but they can still talk. Just like if I put my hand over my mouth, I can still talk. [demonstrate])
  • Are they scary or a “bad” person? (No. The mask covers up part of their face, but that doesn’t mean they are scary or bad. They are wearing a mask because they are sick. That’s all. When they are better, they will take the mask off.)
  • Will I get sick? (Everybody gets sick sometimes. If you get sick, Mama/Dada will take care of you until you are all better. The doctors will help you, too.)

If you live in a community where many people are wearing masks, your child may want to “pretend play” wearing a mask. This is very typical for toddlers! Pretend play is one way that children make sense of their world, by “trying on” the roles and people they see in the world around them. As a parent, you can decide how comfortable you are with this play theme. You might also suggest pretend play around medical roles (doctor/nurse with a teddy bear) to focus on how people take care of others when they are sick.

During stressful times, what children need most is you—a safe, secure relationship where they can express their feelings and questions. Here are some tips:

Supporting young children isolated due to coronavirus

Learn more about common reactions in children when they are faced with stress and things you can do to help in this article by Joy D. Osofsky, Ph.D. & Howard J. Osofsky, M.D., Ph.D. from the zeotothree website

The coronavirus (Covid-19) is a major epidemic. Luckily few young children have fallen ill. Most of the sick children have had mild cases. However, young children are highly affected by the quarantine and the anxiety of their parents and other adults. Adults may think that children will not notice all the changes and the stress, but they are very sensitive to what is going on. Here are some of the ways children react to the stress and some of the things you can do to help them.

Common Reactions in Children

Frequent crying; difficulty staying still; problems falling asleep and staying asleep; nightmares; clinging to their caregivers; fears of being alone; repetitive play (they may repeat over and over again what they have heard; they may try to take special care of their dolls or stuffed animals and hide or cover them). Some children may become very aggressive and angry. Others may withdraw from contact. Some may act like younger children, lose their toilet training, want a bottle rather than drinking from a glass, want to eat baby food or refuse to eat, talk like a much younger child.

Young children are very sensitive to the stress experienced by their caretakers. It affects their ability to act in their usual ways and affects their emotions. Most often, they cannot talk about their fears and distress. Caretakers can protect them from some of the stress the adults feel, but caretakers must be aware that the children are upset.

Things You Can Do to Help Your Children

  1. Routines are very important for young children. Disasters, forced isolation, and other traumatic situations often break their usual routines. Creating new routines or re-establishing usual routines can help children feel safe. Keeping regular mealtimes and bedtimes, setting a daily time to play games together, read to them, or sing songs together all help.
  2. Support from parents or caregivers is very important during periods of stress and during the time after the acute disaster is over. Parents may be physically present but not available emotionally because they are so stressed themselves. It is important to make time to reassure young children and spend time with them.
  3. Explain why things are different. Young children may not understand why things have changed (like why they cannot go outside or play with other children) but talking with them will help them feel to feel supported by you. Help the children in a way that is appropriate for their age. Keep explanations simple.
  4. Take care of yourself. This is very important. Even if young children are not directly exposed to the trauma, they can recognize stress and worry in older children and adults in the house.
  5. If young children have been sent to stay with family members somewhere else talk to them using electronic means as often as possible during the day and at bedtime. If they are at home, try to arrange for them to see other children using a cell phone.

Answering Your Young Child’s Questions About Coronavirus

Here are some age-appropriate responses to the common questions a toddler might have about coronavirus. Even if you’ve kept your toddler away from news about COVID-19 in the media or overhearing adult conversations, they are bound to have questions. Here are some age-appropriate responses to the common questions a toddler might have. Most importantly, remember to keep your answers simple and age-appropriate.

  • Why can’t I play with that little boy over there? “We have to take a break from playing with others so we can all stay healthy.”
  • Why can’t I have a turn with that toy? “We can’t play with other children’s toys right now, so we can all stay healthy.”
  • Why are we wiping down everything with wipes? “We wipe things down to keep them clean.” You don’t need to explain more than this—young children don’t understand germs or infection transmission yet.
  • Why is that person wearing a mask? “Sometimes people wear masks when they aren’t feeling well.”
  • Why won’t Granddad (or other loved one) kiss or hug me? Reassure your child that their loved one still loves and cares about them very much. Then you can explain: “When a grown-up has a cold, they can keep others from getting sick by not hugging or kissing for a while. When they feel better and are healthy again, the first thing they’ll do is give you a big kiss!”
  • Why can’t I see mammy (or daddy, granny, etc.)? If an adult in a child’s life needs to be separate from them, children may feel confused about it. Don’t worry your young child by talking about sickness or quarantine. You can say, “Mammy needs to be away for a little while, but she will be back soon.” Consider ways to stay connected even when physically apart, like video between parent and child.
  • Why can’t I go to child care/school? “Your child care is closed right now. Your teacher and your friends are home too, just like you. When child care is open again, you can go back and see your friends. I’ll tell you when.” Avoid going into details about illness so toddlers don’t develop fears about attending child care.
  • Why can’t we leave the house? Why can’t my friend come over to play? “Right now, there is a rule that families need to stay home for a little while and be together. That helps us and our friends stay healthy. I know it can be sad when we can’t see and play with friends. But there are lots of fun things we can do together at home! Would you like to play chase or do a puzzle?”

Even if your child is too young to ask these questions, you might notice that they still appear curious about all the changes happening around them. You can validate that something different is happening without going into detail. Explain that a change in routine is happening and what your child can expect instead: “You’re going to be staying home with Daddy for a little while, instead of going to child care. This morning we’ll go on a walk and then we’ll have a snack.”

During stressful times, what children need most is you—a safe, secure relationship where they can express their feelings and questions. Here are some tips:

  • Keep daily routines (naptime, bedtime) as consistent as possible for your child.
  • Limit your child’s exposure to media reports about COVID-19. Remember, your child is soaking in the tension you’re feeling as you watch the news.
  • Discuss your own questions/worries about COVID-19 when your child is out of earshot.
  • Practice good hygiene to limit exposure to COVID-19. The HSE website has helpful resources on this topic https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus.html

Looking for more information? Visit zerotothree.org/coronavirus for their latest resources and updates for families.

nicola

Leave a Reply

*