8 Ways to Teach Your Kids About Coronavirus and Keep Them Engaged

This post is sponsored by Wesley Medical Center.
By Priyank Yagnik, MD
Pediatric Critical Care at Wesley Children’s Hospital

One thing that is spreading faster than the coronavirus itself is the news about it. In this age of information overload, it is easier to be misinformed than it is to stay well-informed. If we grown-ups are struggling to stay well-informed, we can only imagine how kids are reacting to corona stories.

The good news is that children worldwide are, for the most part, not affected or only very mildly affected by coronavirus.

But all of the news we hear every day can be particularly scary for kids. So it’s important to reassure them and explain why their lives are changing as we adapt to the coronavirus crisis.

First, we grown-ups need to prepare ourselves before teaching our little ones doing the following:

  • Not using social media as our main source of information. Many of the messages and news articles we see on social media are not curated or filtered and, in many instances, are fake. Always confirm the information you see before you share.
  • Not streaming or watching news constantly at home. Even if kids aren’t in the room, they are often listening, and the news they hear can be scary.
  • Using only reliable sources such as Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and other similar sources.
  • Refraining from spreading unsubstantiated or unbelievable messages. Depending upon our professional background, our friends/followers can get misled depending upon what we post rather than what we practice.

After taking precautions for ourselves, we are now equipped to teach our curious Georges and sassy Elsas what they need to know:

Be honest: Please give them as much information as is necessary depending on their age and maturity level. At the same time, do not shut their curiosity down by not answering questions.

It’s like getting flu: Explain that coronavirus is just like any other germ that causes fever and flu-like illness, so it’s important to take precautions.

Teach non-discrimination: At this time, it’s important to teach kids to treat everyone with respect. Just because someone is from specific country, speaks a different language or has a different skin color doesn’t mean he or she is infected.

Promote good hygiene – Please teach them these age-old principles:

    • Sing happy birthday song twice while washing their hands
    • Cover their coughs and sneezes
    • Avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
    • Stay away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing

Keep them positively engaged. Staying at home and away from other people and children can be challenging. Here are some ideas to keep them connected and engaged during this time:

    • Talk to parents who are homeschooling their kids to get ideas on how to keep up education at home
    • Use free online resources such as YouTube channels (SciShow Kids, Free School, Crash Course Kids, etc), educational websites (BrainPop, Curiosity Stream, Udemy, Khan Academy, etc) and online library websites 
    • Disconnect to connect – use lots of board games and library books, so you can spend time together as a family
    • Involve them in household chores
    • Do art projects to keep kids active and allow them to express themselves

Play and exercise. As the weather improves, go in the backyard and play some outdoor games to get some fresh air and exercise.

Stay connected. If you are missing dear ones, rather than visiting them or inviting them over, use video calling applications such as Facetime, Whatsapp, Skype and more. All are easy to use and most can be used free these days.

Avoid crowds. Explain to them that we cannot go out where there are 10 or more people. These places may include sports events, concerts – even stores. But this is temporary, and after a time, we will be able to go back to our normal routines. 

Remember, our kids trust us more than anyone else in the world. The way we talk to them – especially about serious topics — leaves a long-lasting impression in their minds.

Priyank J. Yagnik, MD, MPH, is a pediatric intensivist at Wesley Children’s Hospital in Wichita, Kansas. He has been Assistant Medical Director for pediatric critical care services since January of 2019. A 2007 graduate of Gujarat University in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, Dr. Yagnik received his Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from the University of Texas School of Public Health, Houston, Texas, in 2009, while also completing his residency in General Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, in 2012. He completed a Fellowship in Pediatric Critical Care at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas in 2015. He is a board member for the American Heart Association of Wichita, and a journal reviewer for the International Journal of Integrative Pediatrics and Environmental Medicine, and is also in charge of developing resident curriculum for bedside ultrasound training for general pediatrics and med/peds residents at Wesley.


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