Understanding COVID-19, how it works, what the symptoms are, and how to handle it is tricky for a smart-functioning adult to grasp. This is mainly due to the fact that it’s probably the first pandemic any of us have ever dealt with which means we DON’T really know how to deal with it.
So, if fully-functioning adults don’t know how to understand the virus (nor do they know what to do in response to it), how do we expect our kids to understand?
Obviously, this article is age-contingent, so if you have an older child, they probably can grasp the gravity of the situation and practice good hygiene and social distancing. They understand what a virus does (in layman’s terms) and get that they don’t want it.
But how do you explain that to a toddler or young child? Particular those that are notorious for picking their nose, not washing their hands, and getting into stuff they shouldn’t be.
The answer: empathy.
If you tell a kid he or she is going to get sick from touching grimy door handles, there is a good chance that won’t register too much with them as an awful repercussion. Why? Because children have never had to worry about door handles, gas pumps, or sharing things their whole lives, so why worry now? In their minds, “if I never got sick before high-fiving Johnny, why would I all of a sudden get sick now?”
This is why it can be easier to tackle the subject of the coronavirus from an empathetic standpoint.
Instead of making it about them and their well-being – make it about their peers. Explain to them that Johnny or many other kids have weak immune systems and that, as a friend, it is their responsibility to keep their friends healthy by practicing good hygiene and social distancing.
In other words, give them the power to make smart decisions. Let them know that you trust them to make important and necessary changes to help save their friends and peers. By doing this, you are giving them a sense of worth and responsibility and kids LOVE that. It makes them feel like a super hero:
Let them know that by staying quarantined and riding this thing out, they will be the Batmans and Elsas of their time – giving up certain things for for the greater good of their community.
By doing this, you are not only creating a pseudo-game for them, but you are also giving them power and trust.
And that goes a long way with kids.