The Sky is Not Falling! Talking to your kids about COVID-19

By Sky Izaddoost, MD, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Primary Care – Stone Oak

It’s been about a month, y’all! The kids have been home for a month. Seriously. I said a month.  While our lives have changed, so have the lives of our kids. My 5-year-old thought she didn’t get dessert last night because of “the COVID” (really it was because she didn’t eat enough of her veggies). Yes, COVID-19 has made an impact on our kids regardless of age. The kids miss their friends. Mine haven’t left our neighborhood in weeks. But worst of all, they hear us talk. They hear us say that people are sick. They hear us say people are dying. They hear our anxieties of how to pay the bills when paychecks are getting cut. They know more than you think, but they react differently than we do.

Some kids can tell you how they feel when given the opportunity to talk. Some kids have nightmares. Some kids shut down all together and refuse to talk. It’s up to us as parents to start this conversation and help our kiddos with stress during this pandemic.

So let’s get started. First, find out what they know about COVID-19. If you ever played telephone as a kid, you know that facts get twisted when they are passed from person to person. Talk to your kids about what they know and help reduce their stress by dispelling some rumors that may not be true. A child with anxiety about getting sick will benefit from reminders that they are staying home to avoid getting sick and to stop the virus. Really, y’all are superheroes at home. You are welcome to wear a cape.

Second, a routine y’all! Your kids are used to doing the same thing every day at school or daycare. Set up something similar at home. While it may seem odd to have to wake up, get dressed and not go anywhere, it returns them to a sense of normal.

Wake up by 8 a.m. Get dressed, brush teeth, fix hair, wash face, and eat breakfast. Just like a normal day. Then get schoolwork done. Make sure you set an afternoon goal or surprise to make getting schoolwork done easier. You could make a fairy lantern, create a scavenger hunt for parents, volcano science experiment, tickle war, or bake something. Also, set aside time for exercise – at least 30 minutes a day or work in an hour if you can. Have your kids help make lunch and eat lunch together as a family. 

Add some self-care elements to your routine. Beyond just exercise, pull out that old yoga mat and try some moves with the kids. My kids love to relax in a bath with a fancy bath bomb. Extra points because they made the bath bomb themselves. (Amazon for the win!) Think about ways you relieve stress for the kids during the regular school year and modify them to current conditions. Eating out relieves stress. So, have a picnic.  The weather has been awesome lately. Just make sure to put on the sunscreen and insect repellent based on age.

Practice social distancing. Honestly, I prefer the term “physical distancing.” Let your kids talk to their friends via Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime to keep them involved in each other’s lives. Give bonus time to talk about schoolwork! Kids can play games on Skype like Scattergories, Heads Up, charades, and have dance parties. Another thing you can do is set up a scavenger hunt where each parent provides a list of items and kids have to run around their respective houses with their devices finding two matching socks, or something shiny, or a superhero in a book.

Finally, this is stressful for adults – just as much as it is for our children. Every day there is something new for us to worry about. Take time to have conversations with your kids about everything that is going on. Reassure them of all the things you are doing to keep them safe. And remember to stay positive. San Antonio is an amazing city and our citizens and heroes are rising to the occasion.

So thank you to all of our health care workers, grocery store workers, delivery truck drivers, and all essential personnel for keeping us together and keeping us safe.  And thank you to the stressed-out parents at home who are keeping the kids and our community safe by staying at home with grace. Wear your cape proudly San Antonio. And send us some pics!

Dr. Sky practices at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Primary Care – Stone Oak. We are accepting new patients and taking extra precautions at all of our clinics to keep children and their parents safe and healthy. We carefully screen all patients by phone and during each visit, separating our days into morning well visits and afternoon sick visits, minimizing waiting room time and practicing safe social distancing and masking. We also have the ability to do video visits, allowing families to talk with a doctor without leaving home whenever possible. To learn more about our services and locations, find us at https://www.christushealth.org/childrens/services-treatments/primary-care.

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