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Cocooning with Kids: Explaining and Redirecting

Where should we direct children’s attention?

As we socially distance ourselves, children may need to hear why this is important.

Here is an explanation for children (and here is a recorded interview).

Everybody gets sick. You get colds and so we keep you home from school so you can rest and get better. Sometimes one of us might be sick but we don’t know it because our body is pretty strong and keeps us from feeling sick. The coronavirus can be like this for some people. You can have it but not feel bad. But it also means that you can pass it to someone else if you cough on them or have been licking your fingers and then touch them and they touch their face.

Some people are more susceptible to getting really sick. Maybe you or I get sick but it’s not too bad. But for other people, it can be dangerous. So right now, it’s important to stay home, away from other people who might get it from us if we have it, or we might get it from them and then we could pass it to someone who is vulnerable to getting really sick and might need to go to the hospital or die.

So we are going to stay home almost all the time. This is how we help our community.

Here are some sources for talking to children about the virus from the World Health Organization:

  • Covibook: Supporting and reassuring children around the world Picture book by Manuela Monila depicting various emotions children experience in the current situation, in various languages
  • Zero to Three: "Tips for Families: Talking About the Coronavirus" (US-focused)
  • Childmind: "Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus" (US-centric)
  • Save the Children: "Coronavirus and Kids: Resources from Save the Children"

How about handwashing?

Child-friendly handwashing video instructions with explanation

One thing really important to do is wash our hands to get the virus off our hands if it is there. We have to do it in the right way. Let’s watch a video that shows us how to do it. (WHO video instructions)

After watching we’ll practice washing our hands. Let’s pick a song to use to remind us how long to wash (20 seconds): Happy Birthday, Yankee Doodle...

Here is a 20-second little song that you could use too. It draws attention to nature and can be turned into an acting out game for young children or into a lullaby for infants. I call it, “We are like.”

Watch the wind, it blows and goes.

Watch the clouds, they play or stay.

Watch the sunlight, here or there.

We’re like wind, clouds, sun today.

Reframe the experience.

As we stay home for days or weeks, we may need to help children reframe the experience. It is a great time to take advantage of social media (which I normally would not encourage children to spend much time on).

Instead of lamenting the inability to do playdates or go to the park, focus attention on the things that the child can do. Like these:

  • Let’s think of some fun ways to talk to grandma and grandpa on the phone.
  • Let’s talk about a good memory we have of them.
  • Shall we find a joke book to tell them jokes?
  • Are there other people we can help some way?
  • Should we make a video to put on social media to try to make people laugh?
  • Should we make up a story or a song? #SongsofComfort is taking entries.
  • Let’s think of other ways to help other people feel better.
More from Darcia F. Narvaez Ph.D.
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