COVID-19 has changed lives in numerous ways that can be hard for adults to process — and it may be even harder for children to understand why they’re happening. They suddenly see people wearing masks in public and social distancing in stores. They may be used to Mom or Dad sitting next to them when getting a haircut, and suddenly they’re sitting farther apart. They may have, in the past, gone on errands with parents, but now they can’t in places where the building capacity is limited.
So how do you explain these issues to your children in age-appropriate ways?
COVID-19 and Masks
KidsHealth.org shares ways to explain masks to your children and to help them feel comfortable wearing them when needed. First, explain their purpose in simple words they can understand. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a great video for children that explains why it’s important to wear a mask to protect people.
You could let your children watch the video, touch a mask, ask questions, and so forth to get them comfortable with the idea. Many children will accept the idea fairly quickly, with some liking the idea of being a superhero who is helping to prevent the virus from spreading. Others may need more time. It may help to allow your child to decorate a mask, practice wearing it at home, and otherwise get comfortable with them before going in public while wearing one.
COVID-19 and Social Distancing
The CDC has also created a short video to help children visualize the idea of germs, how they spread and make people sick — and how 6 feet of social distancing can help people become germ busters. The idea of “social” distancing may be too vague for some children, with the term “physical distancing” something they can more easily understand. If so, use that term.
You can use this resource from CNN to help your child understand how long 6 feet is. For example, many couches are 6 feet in length, as are many dining room tables. So, if you stood, for example, just outside the end of your couch—and your child stood at the far end of the other side—then your child may get a better idea of the distance.
COVID-19 and Errands
Many times, it’s challenging, if not impossible, to go into certain buildings with your child during COVID, whether that’s because a hair salon is telling adults to leave the kids at home or because you don’t feel comfortable with the amount of social distancing taking place in one.
This can be a good time to explore using bank drive-thrus and having your groceries either delivered to your home or using curbside pickup for them. Talk to your child about how these options help to protect your family and other people around you.
Reinforce the Basics
This is also the ideal time to reinforce hand-washing and to consider increasing the number of times that everyone in your family does so. Key steps include:Wet your hands with clean, running water. Lather up with soap and water for 20 seconds (about the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice). Remind your children how to get their entire hand clean, front and back, plus wrists, in between fingers, and beneath fingernails. Rinse well and dry off with a clean towel.
Let your child see you wash your hands this way and, as needed, provide ways for him or her to reach the sink, perhaps with a stool.