Most schools are out across the world and children are home with parents and families due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Families need the facts for children about the science of COVID-19. The current COVID-19 pandemic that is caused by novel coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV-2) first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China has caused devastating impact on people’s lives and global economies. COVID-19 is an an infectious disease.
What happens is that, the virus is a microscopic infectious particle which enters the human body in order to reproduce because it is unable to reproduce on its own. When the virus enters a cell in the human body, it hijacks it and translates its material into that cell to replicate thousands of viruses after its attacks and kills the cell it penetrated.
The replicated viruses moves into the entire body and people experience fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. The body’s immune system will begin to fight back. The infection can lead to pneumonia, multi-organ failure, severe acute respiratory syndrome and even death. The elderly and those with preexisting chronic health conditions have accounted for the majority of deaths from COVID-19. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
Children in general are not likely to die if infected, once they have no preexisting chronic health conditions. However, Children if infected, can contribute to the spread of the disease and endanger older family members such as grand parents and great grand parents and or family members with preexisting chronic health conditions. Find the latest research about children and COVID-19 from Harvard Medical School here. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in approximately 200 countries or territories across 6 continents.
The United States of America has the most cases of COVID-19 and reported the most deaths. Parents and families must have the facts to share with children so they are informed and will be better able to manage the changes they are currently encountering.
Protect Yourself and Family
Crystal de-Passille Chabot
A COVID-19 vaccine has recently been developed and has gotten approval for use in adult population in some countries. The best way to be protected is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Bear in mind, the virus is spread mainly from person-to-person. That is between, infected people who are in close contact with other people within 6 feet.
Social Distancing – Parents you should avoid taking your children out in public at this time. This is because the virus is spread through respiratory droplets from an infected person coughs or sneezes and or hands. The droplets from an infected person if you or your child is within 6 feet can travel into your mouth and nose and inhaled into the lungs. Avoid hand shaking, hugging and kissing as common courtesies at this time.
Limit Social Interactions: You and your family must be responsible in ensuring that you limit social interactions. Since school is out, you are to ensure your children are not having play dates, no sleep overs, no pool parties, no movie nights with friends or external family members. Your child or own children may play outdoors but only by themselves within your own home.
Practice proper hygiene – Parents I know you would have been teaching your children the importance of hand washing. However, you have to be at it now more than ever. You and your family need to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use alcohol -based sanitizers. There is need to pay special attention to hand washing especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Practice and teach your children to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. This can be challenging with smaller children so you may have to develop routines for hand washing to assist them. Click here to link to CDC for demonstration on hand washing.
Clean and Disinfect– Parents you need to clean frequently touched surfaces within and outside of your house daily. Use soap and water to clean then disinfect. Some frequently touched surfaces include doorknobs, light switches, desks, counter tops, tables, handles, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. Ensure children’s washable toys are washed with soap and water after they are used based on manufacturer’s instructions. Parents please ensure children’s clothes, toys are clean and play spaces are clean and sanitized.
Impact on Families
The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is felt across the globe and it means all families are directly or indirectly affected. Governments have stipulated measures to slow the spread and to prevent more and more persons getting the disease. This has resulted in most countries closing boarders, limiting travel, issuing travel advisory for countries and regions, ordering work from home, school closure, lock downs, postponing and canceling major business, sporting, religious, political and social activities.
There are several adverse situations resulting from these measures. Job lost is one such situation families are dealing with at this time. The International Labour Organization estimates that over 25 million jobs could be lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bearing in mind this is an estimate and we have not gone through this situation as yet so this figure should increase. Families not having an income will suffer economically, socially and psychologically as this impacts negatively on standard of living.
The pandemic has resulted in thousands of lives lost. There are families grieving at this time. Due to restrictions families are not able to deal with their grief. Elderly family members are not visited due to them being at risk and so they are feeling isolated. Children are not able to attend school to go through their regular routines. They are not able to see their teachers and interact with them and their peers. Children are not able to participate in sports and other co-curricular activities. There are tension, anxiety, stress, fear and worry our children are all caught up in this cross fire at this time.
Watch out for the Signs
Parents your children are impacted by these adverse situations at this time. Parents and families will have to share with their children what is happening base on their age and stage of development. How to protect self must be shared with all children and infant and toddlers should be protected by parents and families in offering personal care. The decision on what else to share is left to families to decide. The death of grand parents or family members are not easy to share with children neither is job lost. Even if your family is not dealing with those major crisis, the fact that children are restricted and cannot see their friends or have their routines can caused them stress. They are aware of the pandemic they will show signs of fear and anxiety.
Some common changes in behavior to watch for include, excessive worry or sadness, disruption in eating or sleeping habits, and difficulty with attention and concentration. Separation-related worries especially if parents are health care workers or first responders. Children will have several questions they need answers for. Children ages 3-6 years old will need you to do a lot of explanation for them to process the changes happening and the disruption of routines. If you have children in this age cohort they may cry excessively if feel stressed, refuse to be alone in their room or at play, show no interest in some activities they would usually engage in. They will ask several questions relating to their current situation. Be patient and apply coping mechanisms to assist your children.
How to Help Children Cope
Parents know their children best. Here are nine suggestions to assist you in helping your children cope:
- Support System – Yale center for Emotional intelligence provides resources web page for COVID- 19 for support to parents and families for their children. Click here to go to the link.
WHO has tips for parenting in time of COVID-19. You can click here to read for support.
2. Talk and Explain – Talk to your children about what is happening relating to their daily routines and activities. Provide them with explanations to their many questions as appropriate for their age and stage of development.
Here is a child friendly video you can watch with your child provided by Playmobil click here to watch.
3. Create schedule and Routine– Provide for your children schedule and routine for their daily activities and ensure there is some measure of flexibility. Ensure bedtime, meal time, play time, quiet time, learning time and family time routines. Here are some resources you can link to support learning :
4. Safe guard Feelings – Provide safety signals to help your children deal with anxiety or stress. One such example is ensuring special toy for comforting is provided when needed. Protect children from some news features such as the viewing of dead bodies, coffins and the adverse conditions happening because of the pandemic.
5. Let Children Stay Active-. Let your children play outdoors. Take walks in your yard. Let them exercise and do deep breathing then relax.
6. Provide Nutritional Support– Serve children balance meals, pay attention that they eat fruits and vegetables consuming water at intervals. Their immune system need to be at its best to fight off COVID-19 disease.
7. Stay socially connected– Help your children stay socially connected to their friends, teachers, grand parents, other family members and neighbors. Let them use the phone, do video chats, make and send e- cards, emails, letters, text messages.
8. Engage in Family Activities– Ensure you engage your children in relaxation fun time activities such as viewing family videos of special events, looking through family photo album and talk about the special events. Engage in games involving more than one player, do fun challenges, watch movies, prepare favorite meals and bake cookies and make just about what you enjoy eating. Have fun! Engage in faith based rituals such as prayer and the reading of Holy Scriptures this help to comfort and alleviate fear, anxiety and stress.
9. Share with Others in Need – Think of others more adversely affected than you. Let your children help you to package food and other resources for sharing at this time. The picture below is just one of such activity I have engaged in packaging learning resources for children stuck at home with no technology. These learning resources are to assist children and families while school is out.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused negative impact on families and global economies. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 disease. The best way to be protected is to avoid being exposed to the virus. World leaders have taken stringent measures as a result of these families are home with their children and daily lives are interrupted. Parents and families must provide for the needs of their children at this challenging time.
The adverse situation is likely to cause children to have fear, anxiety and stress. Parents and families need to be aware of the changes in children’s behavior and be able to support them as best of possible. All families are asked at this time to implement the measures put forward to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease and to share factual information with their children base on their age and stage of development.
This post was specially written for all parents and families having children going through this pandemic. It is my desire that you will receive much support after reading. You are free to leave your questions, opinions , concerns and or suggestions. I am more than happy to respond to you at the earliest possible time. Please be safe.
Tracy-Ann Morgan-Smith, MPH, University of Liverpool ,UK School of Medicine