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COVID-19

2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID-19What you need to know to help keep children informed and healthy during this pandemic health emergency.

We're currently faced with what is probably the biggest, most widespread crisis your child will have experienced in their life so far. This (hopefully) once-in-a-generation disaster is affecting every aspect of human life. It's traumatic. And trauma always falls hardest on the youngest.

As schools and businesses close around the country to help prevent the spread of the virus, your child will likely have questions and concerns that parents and caregivers can best address. Supporting children during the outbreak means keeping them informed and protecting their health - physical, mental and emotional.

Talk to kids about the coronavirus

Mother talking with her daughterNews of COVID-19 is everywhere now - in every media outlet and in everyday conversations. You may be wondering how to bring up the epidemic in a way that will be reassuring and not make kids more worried than they already may be. If you're feeling unsure about what to share, how much to say and ways to navigate COVID-19 when so much is uncertain, you're not alone. Families all over the world are with you on this one.

Here are some tips from the Child Mind Institute for talking to children about the virus:

  • Don't be afraid to discuss the coronavirus. Most children will have already heard about it anyway, and not talking about something can actually make kids worry more. Look at the conversation as an opportunity to convey the facts and set the emotional tone. Your goal is to help your children feel informed and get fact-based information that is likely more reassuring than whatever they're hearing from their friends or on the news.
  • Be developmentally appropriate. Don't volunteer too much information, as this may be overwhelming. Instead, try to answer your child's questions. Do your best to answer honestly and clearly. It's okay if you can't answer everything - just being available to your child is what matters.
  • Take your cues from your child. Invite your child to tell you anything they may have heard about the coronavirus and how they feel. Give them ample opportunity to ask questions. You want to be prepared to answer (but not prompt) questions and to avoid encouraging frightening fantasies.
  • Deal with your own anxiety. If you notice that you're feeling anxious, take some time to calm down before trying to have a conversation or answer your child's questions.
  • Be reassuring. Children are very egocentric, so hearing about the coronavirus on the news may be enough to make them seriously worry that they'll catch it. It's helpful to reassure your child about how rare the virus actually is (the flu is much more common) and that kids seem to have milder symptoms.
  • Focus on what you're doing to stay safe. An important way to reassure kids is to emphasize the safety precautions that you're taking. Remind kids that they're taking care of themselves by washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or the length of two "Happy Birthday" songs) when they come in from outside, before they eat and after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing or using the bathroom. 
  • Keep talking. Tell your kids that you will continue to keep them updated as you learn more. Let them know that the lines of communication are going to stay open and will be available whenever needed.

Learn More

childmind.org - Expert advice for talking to kids about the coronavirus.

www.pbs.org - Tips for how to talk to younger children about the coronavirus.

www.pbs.org - Ten tips for talking about COVID-19 with your kids.

www.health.harvard.edu - Advice for how to talk to children about the coronavirus.

www.health.harvard.edu - Advice for how to talk to teens about the coronavirus.

www.cdc.gov - Tips for parents, school staff and others working with children for talking about the coronavirus.

Protect children's physical health

Mother watching her two children wash their handsCOVID-19 is a new disease and we're still learning how it spreads, the severity of illness it causes and to what extent it may spread in the U.S. But based on the available evidence, children don't appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with the virus, adults make up most of the known cases to date.

Information about COVID-19 in children is somewhat limited, but current data suggest children with COVID-19 may only have mild symptoms. However, they can still pass the virus onto others who may be at a higher risk, including older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions.

Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for protecting children from getting sick from the virus that the whole family can practice:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with those showing cold- or flu-like symptoms.
  • Practice physical distancing - also called social distancing - by keeping six feet between yourself and others when you're out.
  • Avoid non-essential travel.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in common household areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets and sinks).
  • Launder items including washable plush toys as appropriate, using the warmest possible water setting and allowing the items to dry completely.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
  • Stay at home when you're feeling sick.
  • Practice healthy habits. Sleep, exercise and eating healthy foods are good everyday ways to strengthen our bodies.

Learn More

www.weldgov.com - The Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment's COVID-19 webpage, featuring up-to-date information and educational materials.

www.weldgov.com - The Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment's COVID-19 information for childcares.

covid19.colorado.gov - The State of Colorado's COVID-19 website with state-specific information, orders and data.

covid19.colorado.gov - The State of Colorado's recommendations for schools, workplaces and the community.

www.cdc.gov - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID-19 website, offering resources, information and the latest updates.

www.cdc.gov - Tips for keeping children healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak.

www.cdc.gov - Guidance for schools and child care programs.

www.pbs.org - PBS KIDS videos, games and activities all about hand washing and staying healthy.

Support children's mental and emotional health

Dad talking to son, dad's hand is on son's shoulderFear and anxiety from all the COVID-19 news can be overwhelming for both adults and children. Kids often react to what they see from the adults around them, so when parents and caregivers deal with the pandemic calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. When you are prepared, rested and relaxed, you can respond better to stressful situations and make decisions in the best interest of your family and loved ones.

Here are some tips from the Child Mind Institute to help calm fears, manage stress and keep the peace:

  • Keep routines in place. Setting and sticking to a regular schedule is key, even when you're home all day. Structured days with regular mealtimes and bedtimes are an essential part of keeping kids happy and healthy. Consistency and structure are calming during times of stress.
  • Be creative about new, fun things to do. Incorporate new activities into your routine, like doing a puzzle or having family game time in the evening. Build in activities that help everyone get some exercise, such as taking a daily family walk or bike ride.
  • Manage your own anxiety. It's completely understandable to be anxious right now, but how you manage that anxiety has a big impact on your kids. Keeping your worries in check will help your whole family navigate this uncertain situation as calmly as possible. When you catch yourself feeling anxious, try to avoid talking about your concerns within earshot of your children. If you're feeling overwhelmed, step away and take a break.
  • Limit consumption of news. Staying informed is important, but it's a good idea to limit the amount of news and social media that has the potential to feed your anxiety - and your kids'. Turn off the TV and mute or unfollow those who are prone to sharing panic-inducing posts.
  • Stay in touch virtually. Keep your support network strong, even when you're only able to call or text friends and family. Socializing plays an important role in regulating your mood and helping you stay grounded. And the same is true for your children. Communication can help kids feel less alone and mitigate some of the stress that comes from being away from friends and family.
  • Make plans. In the face of events that are scary and largely out of our control, it's important to be proactive about what you can control. Making plans helps you visualize the near future. Make lists that kids can add to, or even better, assign kids tasks that will help them feel that they are a part of the plan and making a valuable contribution to the family.
  • Keep it positive. Though adults are feeling apprehensive, to most children the words "school's closed" are cause for celebration. Parents should validate that feeling of excitement and use it as a springboard to help kids stay calm and happy. Let kids know that you're glad they're excited, but make sure they understand that though it may feel like vacations they've had in the past, things will be different this time.
  • Keep kids in the loop - but keep it simple. Talking to children in a clear, reasonable way about what's going on is the best way to help them understand. But remember kids don't need to know every little thing. Unless kids ask specifically, there's no reason to volunteer information that might worry them. Older kids can handle - and expect - more detail, but you should still be thoughtful about what kinds of information you share with them.
  • Check in with little kids. Young children may be oblivious to the facts of the situation, but they may still feel unsettled by the changes in routine, or pick up on the fact that people around them are worried and upset. Check in with younger children periodically and give them the chance to process any worries they may be having. Make sure to respond to any outbursts in a calm, consistent, comforting way. 
  • Sometimes the path of least resistance is the right path. Remember to be reasonable and kind to yourself. We all want to be our best parenting selves as much as we can, but sometimes that best self is the one that allows your child a little leeway while schools are cancelled or online. Give yourself license to relax the boundaries a bit. Say "go for it" when your kid asks for more time on the iPad or allow TV or screens on the weeknights. We can re-institute boundaries once more when life returns to normal.
  • Accept and ask for help. If you have a partner at home, agree to trade off when it comes to child care, especially if one or both of you are working from home and have younger children. That way everyone gets a break and some breathing room. Everyone who can pitch in should. Give kids age-appropriate jobs. For example, teens might be able to help mind younger siblings when both parents have to work. Most children can set the table, help keep common areas clean, do dishes or take out the trash. Even toddlers can learn to pick up their own toys. Working as a team will help your whole family stay busy and make sure no one person - especially mom - is overwhelmed.

You can also download our Weld County Kids COVID-19 Care Kit, featuring four pages of coloring and fun activities your children can do that also support their mental and emotional health.

Learn More

childmind.org - Tips for supporting kids during the coronavirus crisis, including ways to nurture and protect them at home.

thrivingweld.com - Thriving Weld's Outdoor Rx, a new and exciting initiative aimed at getting people outdoors to improve physical activity and well-being, which can help reduce stress and anxiety.

www.weldgov.com - Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment tips for managing COVID-19-related stress and anxiety.

www.cdc.gov - Tips for managing anxiety and stress.

www.cdc.gov - Advice for helping children cope with emergencies.

www.cdc.gov - Guidelines for taking care of your emotional health.

www.pbs.org - Tips for helping children with tragic events in the news.

www.pbs.org - Advice for helping kids navigate scary news stories.

www.pbs.org - How you and your kids can de-stress during coronavirus.

www.pbs.org - How mindfulness can help kids (and parents!) weather emotional storms.

www.pbs.org - Eight indoor activities to release kids' energy.

www.pbs.org - Schools closed? How to make a new home routine.