How do I explain a pandemic to the little ones?
- Explain the situation in clear and simple language. Be honest and tell them the truth in a friendly way, to this effect, it is important to be well informed on the subject, explain to them what a pandemic is, the consequences it has on their daily lives, and the importance of taking precautions to reduce the risk of getting the disease.
- Pay attention to them. Children can react to stress in different ways, some will be more attached to us out of fear, others will be more nervous, withdrawn, angry, or agitated, depending on their personality, and may even have reactions such as bedwetting. In this situation, it’s a good idea to consider their attention needs more often than usual. It is important not to be indifferent. We must be supportive of their concerns, listen to them, and convey calm and love.
- Protect their emotions. The most important thing is to listen to their concerns by offering them our full attention. Acknowledge their emotions, make them see that everything they are feeling is normal. Be more understanding and patient with them, look for relaxation spaces and share leisure time so that they forget about the restlessness they perceive in the environment.
- Keep them close to your family and friends. Children should not be separated from their relatives and close friends. If the distance is forced (for example, as a preventive measure for their grandparents’ and closest friends’ health), they must keep regular contact with them by other means (phone calls, text messages, etc.).
- Organize new routines and regular schedules. Although in isolation situations it is practically impossible not to vary our routines, it is important to maintain certain habits. For example, dress in comfortable clothes even if it is necessary to stay at home; dedicate time to learning, guide them to do homework; and also accompany them when performing recreational activities.
- Control the sources of information. It is our duty as parents to protect them from all the information that could confuse them or contribute to the development of anxiety and fear. We can reduce anxiety at home if we avoid exposing the little ones to the news about the problem. Explain that not all the information available on the internet is correct and that it is better to trust experts and official sources, as is the case of the website that the ABC Medical Center makes available to the community: centromedicoabc.com/coronavirus
- Put on a brave face and weather the storm. Make them notice that in difficult times or times of crisis, there are also new activities to learn, for example, hand hygiene habit in a fun and practical way.
- Organize fun family activities. It is essential to plan moments of leisure and activities together (such as board games, crafts, cooking in family, watching movies, listening to music, tidying the garden or the closets and drawers in the house, dancing, playing a musical instrument, reading, practicing breathing and meditation techniques, among others).
- Exercising. Exercising as a family every day is vital to keep your spirits up and this is where creativity plays an important role, such as preparing an obstacle course in the garden, going up and down the stairs in various ways, etc.
Teach them respect for the environment. Teach them to make small contributions to domestic hygiene, such as separating waste from garbage, recycling techniques, knowing the importance of cleaning the house, clothes, dishes, etc.
Protect the children’s health
At this stage of development, it is also very important to establish the basis of self-protective habits that will allow them to be responsible for their health and that of other people throughout their lives. It is not necessary to talk about all the causes and effects of diseases to encourage them to protect themselves, there are protection behaviors within children’s reach from a very early age and that also allows them to develop their sense of self-efficacy and self-confidence:
All the following recommendations refer to children in the early childhood education stage (up to approximately 6 years old, depending on the degree of maturity). At other ages, they must have the most appropriate approach to their level of competence and that allows them to learn and develop according to their age.
The media and social alarm sometimes force us to explain things that we never thought we would have to talk about with children. It is not so serious: you just have to have very clear priorities.
Is Coronavirus a tiny bug with a crown?
For a few weeks it seems that COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”) is everything we talk about in the media, in the streets, in families, in schools, and even in early childhood education classrooms.
It doesn’t seem like the most appropriate topic to talk about, but sometimes children are the ones who propose it because they are nervous about the expectation they notice around them and they need to express themselves. How can we face this situation from an educational point of view? The best thing is to focus on the subject simply, clearly, and without too much detail so that we protect our children’s rights. In this case, especially their rights to protection and health.
Protect the children’s emotions
Conversations at home and continued exposure to the media about COVID-19 can cause children uncertainty, worry, anguish, and stress.
Therefore, we share some tips to reduce stress in children and protect their emotional well-being:
- Handwashing with soap and water: not only learning to wash their hands properly but acquiring the habit and being able to promote this need in different contexts (for example: when entering the house, remembering to wash their hands in a restaurant, etc.)
- Recognize the daily moments in which we are in contact with dirt and be able to take precautions. For example, soil management, contact with domestic animals, precautions against garbage and feces, among others.
- Learn those hygienic measures that protect others, for example, the use of handkerchiefs and napkins, learning to clean the nose, avoiding sharing cutlery and glasses, etc.
- Acquire respect for the environment: collaborate in home and school hygiene, acquire the habit of throwing waste in the garbage, know the importance of cleaning the environment, clothes, dishes, among others.
At the moment there is not enough evidence to determine if the virus can be transmitted from mothers to fetuses during pregnancy, nor the consequences that this can have on the baby. It is still being investigated. Pregnant women should take the proper precautions to protect themselves from exposure to the virus and seek medical attention if they develop symptoms such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.
Is it safe for a mother infected with Coronavirus to breastfeed her baby?
If a mother has symptoms but is well enough to breastfeed her baby, she should wear a mask whenever she is around the baby (for example, while breastfeeding), wash her hands before and after having contact with the baby (also while breastfeeding), and clean or disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated. These precautionary measures must be followed at all times if a person who knows that he or she is infected with COVID-19 or suspects that he or she may be infected is in contact with other people.
If a mother is very ill, it is recommended that she pumps her milk to give it to the baby in a cup and/or with a clean spoon, following the same infection prevention measures at all times.
Remember to talk to your doctor if you have any questions.
At any age, but especially with children, it is of little use to teach them to wash their hands if they do not see us doing it often. Nor will it have much effect what we tell them about being calm if they perceive our nervousness or if we scold them for calling someone “coronavirus” when they hear us make jokes that they do not understand.
At a stage of development in which language skills are not yet fully developed, much of the learning is done by imitation and has a high emotional component. Children’s education forces us to use all the senses.
- Prepare su Hogar para COVID-19
- Centro para el Control y Prevención de Enfermedades, 2020.
- Acciones frente al COVID-19
- Grupo Especial de Operaciones de Salvamento, 2020.
- Guía para padres sobre Coronavirus
- Unicef, 2020.