Coronavirus: Some advice for parents
As news of the coronavirus outbreak spreads across the country and local stores sell out of hand sanitizer and protective masks, many families in Missouri are wondering how to deal with the potential of a pandemic.
Many school districts are reaching out to parents with news of their efforts to step up their cleaning and sanitation efforts and some private schools have even proactively closed to help decrease the chance of spreading the virus.
While the future impact of the disease in Missouri is still very much unknown, we wanted to share some resources from state and national organizations to help families deal with potential upheavals as a result of the coronavirus.
Fast facts about coronavirus
- Most experts agree that children are not at any increased risk from the coronavirus than adults and may even be less likely to suffer major symptoms than elderly patients.
- Prevention steps are the same as for protecting against a cold or the flu:
- Wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze
- Try not to touch surfaces in populated areas
- Avoid going to events with large crowds if possible.
- If your child is sick keep them home from school.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Talking about the disease with your family
As with any major issue, it is a good idea to talk about coronavirus with your children, answer any of their questions, and come up with a family plan in case the situation worsens.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers a wide range of advice on how to talk about the coronavirus with your children:
- Hold your family discussion in a comfortable place and encourage family members to ask questions. Consider having a separate discussion with young children in order to use language they can understand and to address specific fears or misconceptions they may have. This discussion should include:
- What the current disease outbreak is
- How it is contracted
- What are the possible dangers
- Protective steps being taken in the community/nation/global community
- Protective steps everyone in the family can take
- Create a list of community resources that will be helpful during an outbreak. Make sure you know their emergency telephone numbers, websites, and official social media accounts. These may include: your family’s schools, doctors, public health authorities, social services, community mental health centers, and crisis hotlines.
- Develop a plan for maintaining contact with friends and family members via telephone and internet in the event that isolation or quarantine is recommended.
- Check-in with your children’s school about potential homeschool and distance learning opportunities that may be offered during a school closure. Also, if your child receives additional services at school, ask how these will be handled during a closure (e.g., meals, therapeutic services).
Help your kids avoid stress over the coronavirus
Focus on supporting children by encouraging questions and helping them understand the current situation:
- Talk about their feelings and validate these
- Help them express their feelings through drawing or other activities
- Clarify misinformation or misunderstandings about how the virus is spread and that not every respiratory
- disease is COVID-19
- Provide comfort and a bit of extra patience
- Check back in with your children on a regular basis or when the situation changes
Be prepared to be stuck at home
While we all hope that the coronavirus will have a limited impact on our daily lives, the possibility of a quarantine is a real possibility. Should your school be closed or a quarantine be imposed on your area, here are some recommendations from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network to keep in mind to keep your family members happy at home:
- Even if your family is isolated or quarantined, realize this will be temporary.
- Keep your family’s schedule consistent when it comes to bedtimes, meals, and exercise.
- Make time to do things at home that have made you and your family feel better in other stressful situations such as reading, watching movies, listening to music, playing games, exercising, or engaging in religious activities (prayer, participating in services on the Internet).
- Have children participate in distance learning opportunities that may be offered by their schools or other institutions/organizations.
- Recognize that feelings such as loneliness, boredom, fear of contracting disease, anxiety, stress, and panic are normal reactions to a stressful situation such as a disease outbreak.
- Help your family engage in fun and meaningful activities consistent with your family and cultural values.
Knowing where to get good information about a crisis situation is key, and lots of false information can be easily spread through social media. Here are some good resources for keeping up-to-date on the coronavirus issue: