How to explain about the Coronavirus to children? How do parents answer the stream of questions about the Covid to their kids? Should we tell children the real news? And how do kids take in the quarantine situation? What goes in the children's mind during this difficult time? This Danish mom shares her story, but for a better understanding, first let's have a quick glimpse into how the situation unfolds in Denmark:
[News Report on Denmark's Lockdown to Illustrate the Situation, by Al Jazeera]
The taken measures in Denmark, announced by the Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and now extended to April 13, 2020:
Schools and kindergartens will remain closed
Nightclubs, bars, cafés, restaurants and theaters will remain closed
All indoor public cultural institutions such as churches, libraries, leisure facilities and other indoor activities will remain closed
Large shopping malls will remain closed
All hairdressers, tattooists and massage centers will remain closed
Public sector workers in non-critical roles will remain home
The ban on gatherings of more than ten people will remain in place
The requirement that Danes who return from abroad stay at home for two weeks will be kept in place.
The call for all Danes not to travel aboard will remain in place.
Honest account by Barbara Joergensen from Denmark: "The first time I've heard about the Covid19, I was in denial, and to be honest, I think I was in denial for about a week. This moved way to fast for me. I didn't think the virus would be spreading that quickly and in such a short period of time. But I do think that the news outlets (here in Denmark) handled things very responsibly and with extra caution. I'm thankful for that.
We've been telling our son that he could ask as many questions as he likes.
From one day to the other, my kids and husband (I'm working from home already) have to stay in the house due to the lockdown. This started as a difficult task for me and for them. My kids miss school. They also miss their friends and, on top of that, I need to start homeschooling - which is not my expertise. I was very stressed and anxious for the first weeks and only now that we're finally feeling we know what we are doing. The most concerned one among us is my 5-year-old child. He didn't understand at first and kept asking many questions. My kid is very curious about how the Coronavirus actually works: how you get sick with Coronavirus? What are the symptoms of Coronavirus? And who could get sick by the it?
We've been telling him that he could ask as many questions as he likes. We don't show him news reports and he doesn't know about the death rates. Every question he got regarding the pandemic is because kids hears the grownups talk about it.
We've explained to our child that the virus is this "mini red monster with fur", and that there's a glue in his fur to stick himself inside other people's lungs. We continued our explanation saying that as a result, some people would have fever and then, in most cases, their body's "white soldiers" (*we use the term "white soldiers" to reference to the white cells in our bodies) will fight this monster and the sick person will get better again.
We emphasized that the difference between this Coronavirus "monster" and "the common flu" is that it takes longer for the "white soldiers" to fight Covid and for some people, fighting it is especially difficult - that's why being home is so important. Talking to each-other about our fears and concerns has helped him a lot.
Another important aspect is that, the Coronavirus talks made our boy worried about his grandparents. That little head is taking it all in... We requested the grandparents (from both mine and my husband's side) to talk to our kid and assure him that they were doing good and are taking care of themselves. They are continue talking to him every week to help us keep him calm.
My personal worries about the effects of the lockdown and the Coronavirus situation in near future are mostly about the how and not the when. Because I know things will be back to normal. But, how... well that is another for another post. We, as a society, had changed. I'm curious to see how things will develop."
Professionals at Harward university recommend to provide children with just enough information, model calmness and keep reassuring them as often as needed. Jaqueline Sperling, PhD, gives good examples on how to answer children's questions regarding wearing masks and death caused by the Coronavirus here.
Jamie Howard, PhD, recommends to focus on what you're doing to stay safe and stick to the routine to divert kids' attention from the on-going stress. You can find her full recommendations published here, at the Child Mind Institute website.
Finally, for low-cost ideas of how to keep kids entertained at home, with things that are likely already in your household, sign-up free to infoStraight. (search by tags such as; #Fun and #KidFriendly).