Reassure your kids in these times by arming them with information. Here are some tips and resources to help parents in Teaching Kids about Covid-19.
As COVID-19 cases spread across the world and the daily count in India rises above 30,000, we’ve begun to realize that the fight against the coronavirus is going to take longer than we thought initially. While children are thankfully a minority among those infected, they are just as affected by the pandemic emotionally than we are – maybe even more.
This situation is unprecedented even for us, so it’s no wonder that children are feeling bewildered and scared at how drastically their lives have changed. No one goes to school anymore or sees their friends – everyone is only available online. Family get-togethers, outings, picnics and vacations have all been stopped. Even a visit to the nearby mall is not possible in the present circumstances.
All this can cause a lot of anxiety for children, but they may also be worried about the actual disease. They may worry about their parents or grandparents, especially since we constantly hear reports of the elderly being specifically at risk.
The best way to deal with fear is through education. When the virus is seen as this big, unknown thing, the fear intensifies. Instead, break it down into facts, and children will start feeling more in control. The information itself is empowering, and when coupled with assurance from parents, kids will feel much more at ease.
It can be confusing for parents who are wondering how to talk about the pandemic, so we have drawn up some resources that can help. From tips to talk to books, videos and crafts, there are many ways we can discuss the situation with our children without alarming them.
The first and foremost way to explain COVID-19 to kids is through conversation, and this will usually start with questions they have about the virus. Even if they don’t come to you with their questions, you need to reach out and ask them about how they’re feeling. It’s quite likely that they have fears or doubts they don’t know how to express. Your reaction as a parent is very important at this stage, and it will reflect in the way your child handles his emotions as well. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to remember when talking to kids about the pandemic.
- Get educated yourself. Gather all the information you’ll need from reliable sources like the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India (MOHFW). You can check out the links at the end of this article. Being properly informed will put your mind at ease and make you confident that you can answer your kids’ questions.
- Be honest – kids can easily find out when you’re lying. If you don’t know something, offer to help find it out for them.
- Use age appropriate language and give out information on a need to know basis. Preschoolers don’t need to know how having a heart disease puts someone at greater risk of dying from the coronavirus.
- When talking to kids about COVID-19, you’ll have to cover three areas – one is about the virus itself. What it is, how it’s spread and may be some facts based on the child’s age. The second area is about the steps we have to take in keeping the virus at bay. The third area is assuaging the child’s fears in a gentle manner.
- Reassure your children and let them know that they’re safe. Let them know all the steps you’re taking and how these will control the spread of the disease.
- Be a good role model and practice all the right behaviors yourself – wearing a mask, washing hands, helping those in need and maintaining social distance.
- Be optimistic. Talk to kids about how far more people are recovering that dying, and how doctors all over the world are working for this. Tell them that things will get better, and we can still be happy in the meantime.
- Fall for false information and rumors. There’s so much of this floating around so you have to be very careful. If kids come to you with something they’ve heard, be patient and gentle and try explaining with facts. When kids can clearly see what’s true and what’s not, they’ll learn not to trust such information again.
- Use alarmist language. Saying things like ‘it’s all over’, ‘the world’s ending’ or ‘things have changed forever’ create a lot of alarm in a child’s mind, and can lead to mental distress.
- Listen to the news all day. News channels are all for breaking news, so even small incidents are shown in large, flashing red letters. These can easily cause anxiety in children and scare them even if they don’t fully comprehend what’s going on.
- Be paranoid. Yes, you need to be careful, but don’t take it to the extreme that makes it abnormal. This is particularly important if you or another member of the family has OCD, as it can escalate quickly in a situation like this.
- Blame others. We humans have a tendency to blame others when something bad happens – it may be our way of coping with it, but it’s not right. Don’t use any kind of discriminatory language towards any race, religion or nationality. Kids catch on such things very easily and you have to be careful.
- Stigmatize COVID-19 patients. The fear of the disease has got certain people acting in extremes, treating patients as untouchables even when they’ve recovered and are back home. Do not do this with your neighbours or relatives – getting sick is not anyone’s fault.
Books for Kids to understand COVID-19
Several studies suggest that cartoons and comics could be an effective way to explain viruses to kids. Due to this, many authors and organizations have come up with child-friendly literature, aiming to help kids understand the pandemic as well as to offer solutions to cope with their feelings and to adjust to the new normal.
The United Nations has collaborated with several other humanitarian organizations to release a book called My Hero is You. The book is about a fantasy creature called Ario, who helps children understand why the world around them is changing and how to deal with it.
The Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also released a book, a comic called Kids, Vaayu and Corona. The central character of the comic is Vaayu, whose job is to help children cope with the pandemic.
The National University of Singapore has come up with a series of comic strips that feature characters named Baffled Bunny and Curious Cat who go to Dr. Duck for information about the virus.
The South African Health Department has shared a comic strip with characters named Wazi and Duma, who asks questions about the coronavirus and then shares that information.
A Message from Corona by Charity Tedder and Leighton Noyes is a simple explanation of how the virus is spreading and how we can stop the spread.
Covid-19 Helpers by Bacon and Lee talks about how hard our frontliners are working to keep us all safe from the coronavirus and how we can join the fight.
Captain Corona and the 19 COVID Warriors is another book that focuses on all the hard working people who are fighting the virus.
Exploring The New Coronavirus: A Comic Just for Kids by Malaka Gharib is a fun comic that answers common questions about COVID-19.
Coronavirus A Book for Children is a book by Axel Scheffler, author of the popular children’s book, ‘The Gruffalo’.
What You Can Do About COVID-19 by Scott Emmons is a book for the younger set, explaining how each one of us can do our bit to fight the virus.
“Together: Living Life During COVID-19,” is the story of a girl named Olivia who learns all about how the virus is changing the world.
Staying Home by Sally Nicholls and Viviane Schwarz focuses on a racoon family as they go about their life in lockdown.
The Big Thing written by Angela Meng and Alexander Friedman and illustrated by Alvaro Gonzalez talks about the big thing on everyone’s mind right now, in simple language.
Everybody Worries by Jon Burgerman shows kids that it’s okay to worry – it’s perfectly normal and there’s no need to fear our feelings.
“We’re Going to be OK,” by Hilton, Webb and Webb talks about how we can take precautions and keep ourselves safe.
“What Color is Today?” by writer and illustrator Alison Stephens is a great book that uses color to describe feelings that change on a daily basis.
Oaky and the Virus by Athol Williams is a story about two acorns – Oaky and Oaket – who learn about what they can do to keep the virus away.
Farmer Falgu stays Home by Chitra Soundar and Kanika Nair is a cute book about Farmer Falgu, who realizes that staying home means staying safe.
The Princess in Black and the Case of the Coronavirus is the latest addition in the series featuring Magnolia, where children are encouraged to follow certain steps to stay safe.
Princess Easy Pleasy is Bored is from Karadi Tales featuring a character that has a common problem all kids have now – she’s bored!
Activities for Kids to learn about COVID-19
Let kids learn about how germs are spread with a glitter experiment from I Can Teach My Child. Kids will be able to see how tiny bits of glitter can get their way everywhere, in a short amount of time.
The activity above showed how germs were spread, but the problem is that we can’t actually see the germs being spread in real life. To show kids how germs can be invisible but still exist, try out this invisible germs experiment by MotherCould.
Exactly how effective is soap? And does the time make any difference? Playdough to Plato has an experiment that answers these questions, using apples. You can use bread as well for this activity, which is better suited to older kids.
For younger kids, here is a simple pepper germs experiment from Messy Little Monsters, which shows how just a drop of soap scares the germs away – very effective!
So kids may realize that washing hands with soap is the best way to get rid of germs. But are they washing properly? Try out the cinnamon powder activity from Confidence Meets Parenting, which shows how important it is to wash under the nails, in between the fingers etc.
Just like washing hands is important, so is covering the mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing. 10 Minutes of Quality Time has a cute vampire craft that demonstrates sneezing into the elbow.
Teach kids the importance of wearing a mask with a simple activity. Make these fluffy germ balls from The OT Toolbox. Place them on a table and let the child blow on them from one end. You can see that the germs get blown away to a distance. Now ask her to blow on the germs while wearing a mask. You will be able to see that the germs aren’t able to travel very far. A great way to help kids understand the rationale behind wearing masks.
Keep kids occupied and informed at the same time with the help of the Coronavirus activity book by John Hopkins Children’s Center. This contains lots of facts and activities so kids can have fun while they learn.
Videos for Kids to Watch
After books, videos are an excellent way to impart a lot of information in a short time, and is particularly helpful for young kids. The WHO has joined hands with Peppa Pig to launch the “Wash Wash Wash Your Hands” video, where kids are shown how hand washing can be fun.
Peekaboo Kidz has The Dr. Binocs Show where all the basics are touched upon, like what the Coronavirus is, how it spreads etc.
The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has a series of short, simple videos that explain various concepts like social distancing.
The University of Michigan School of Public Health has released a video for children and their families that explains about the Coronavirus and also details the steps to take to stay safe.
Got Nickelodeon fans at home? Check out this video that features popular characters like Sponge Bob along with celebrities.
Watch Chhota Bheem in this video as he explains in Hindi about the Coronavirus, while also reassuring kids that they’ll be fine.
Lego has released a video which shows that even superheroes have to take precautions! Watch as Batman shows kids how to wash their hands correctly.
Go through all these tips and choose the ones that’ll be most effective for your child, keeping his or her temperament and age in mind. Try a mix of books, videos and crafts, all the while maintaining a constant flow of conversation. With enough support from us, our kids will learn to thrive even in this situation and they’ll emerge stronger from it.