With schools closing, sports canceling entire seasons, and family travel being put off for the foreseeable future, your kids may have difficulty dealing with the new realities of life during the coronavirus pandemic. And as a parent, you might be feeling overwhelmed by daily news reports and the demands of social distancing, in addition to your concerns for your child’s emotional and physical well-being. Here are some steps you can take to keep your family healthy during this challenging time.
How COVID-19 Affects Children
A new study from China has found that while kids usually experience mild symptoms with COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, these children are still contagious for a while after their symptoms clear. Parents can take some comfort in the fact that children are less likely than adults to develop complications with COVID-19. Furthermore, the study’s findings support the practice of closing schools, which is happening throughout the United States in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Children who have recovered from the infection could still pass on the virus to vulnerable adults, such as the elderly and people with underlying health issues. It is unclear how long children should be kept under quarantine to prevent them from infecting others.
Written records show that people have been using plants to treat a variety of health conditions for nearly 5,000 years, but we still don’t know a whole lot about how to treat this virus. While experts have not yet developed a vaccine for COVID-19, children typically make a fast recovery from the illness. If your child becomes ill, you can probably treat them at home unless they develop problems related to difficulty breathing. Currently, there are no medical therapies for COVID-19. You can make your child comfortable and promote their healing by treating their symptoms with fever reducers and plenty of fluids.
How to Talk to Your Child About COVID-19
When you discuss the pandemic with your child, remain calm and use age-appropriate, straightforward language. You can tell young children that some people are getting sick from a germ that’s spreading quickly and that everyone is pulling together to keep more people from catching the germ. Older kids may be sharing misinformation with each other. Tell them it’s normal to be concerned, but make sure they understand that kids recover quickly from COVID-19 — and that if they get it, it will feel a lot like the flu. Explain that the elderly and people with underlying health conditions are most likely to get seriously ill from the virus and that people are staying home in order to help prevent the virus from spreading to these vulnerable groups.
Teens are old enough to understand news reports, so they may express worries about whether our healthcare system is able to handle all cases of COVID-19. Globally, there are approximately 7.2 million unfilled healthcare jobs and there is a shortage of physicians in this country. Reassure your teen that people are doing everything possible to prevent the virus from spreading. But if they ask, be honest about the limited numbers of ventilators, hospital beds, and healthcare personnel available. They should be prepared for the crisis to get worse before it gets better.
How to Keep Kids Occupied at Home
Although nearly 58 opioid prescriptions were written per every 100 citizens in the United States in 2017, the prescription painkiller crisis is currently taking a back seat to the newest health crisis: the coronavirus pandemic. The virus is spreading quickly and parents are doing all they can to keep their families and others in their community safe.
If you decide that your family should self-isolate, or if your family is quarantined because a member has COVID-19, there are ways to help kids cope with the new reality. Plan fun activities for the whole family, like crafting or assembling jigsaw puzzles. Give kids goals like watching a certain number of streaming shows and movies, organizing their rooms, and learning to paint or draw from online videos. Keeping them busy will help keep their minds off their fears about the virus, and help prevent them from getting restless and bored.
How to Approach Homeschooling
If your kids are home either because of self-isolation or because their school is closed, you’re probably wondering how to approach homeschooling. It’s important to remember that homeschooling on a temporary basis can’t replicate the school environment. Children who are accustomed to the structure of school won’t be able to concentrate as well at home. Unless you’re a professional educator, you can’t expect to create lessons as comprehensive as the ones your kids are used to. With social distancing in the mix, kids are likely to miss their friends. But you can still create a learning atmosphere that’s fun and engaging.
Your child’s school may have sent them home with homework packets or they may have established online learning platforms. Although completing the work provided by the school is required, you can let your kids have input about other subjects they’d like to explore. They can create a list of topics they want to learn about and you can discuss the choices as a family. Try hands-on learning — for example, teaching kids about math by measuring ingredients for cooking or about botany by exploring the plants and trees in their backyard.
If your kids normally depend on school meals due to food insecurity at home, you can contact your local food shelf to find out how they are helping low-income families during the pandemic. You can also contact your state’s Department of Health to learn about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other programs providing food benefits.
These are scary times, but you can do a lot to protect your child’s emotional and physical well-being. Talk to your child about COVID-19, reassure them that they’ll get better fast if they become sick, and give them activities and goals to help them cope with isolation. Your family can work together to get through this time of crisis.