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How to Explain COVID-19 and Vaccination to Your Kids

Doctors clarify COVID-19 and vaccination in two free children’s books.

Source: Enriquelopezgarre/Pixabay

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if social distancing were a thing of the past? If we could hug our friends, see our relatives and have dinner with them or allow our children all the play dates they request? No one wants life before the pandemic to resume more than children whose worlds have shrunk dramatically. Their understanding of why, however, is vague and abstract.

It has been difficult enough for adults to wrap their heads around the coronavirus and its implications. Imagine being a young child. You may be tired of the questions: Why do we have to wash our hands so much? When can I play with my friends? Why can’t I see Grandma and Grandpa?

Alex Brissenden
Source: Alex Brissenden

As a public service, Drs. Lauren Block, a primary care physician and medical educator, and Adam Block, a public health economist, created Kelly Stays Home: The Science of Coronavirus to fill a void in children’s understanding of COVID-19. It is an informative and helpful complimentary book to teach young children the principles of transmission, social distancing, and herd immunity. Two versions just released, one for children ages 7 to 11 and one for younger children, skillfully and sensitively answer questions that are difficult for most of us to respond to accurately. In pictures and plain language, the doctors have succeeded in describing why our everyday lives changed so quickly.

The Blocks, parents of three young children, asked friends what their children wanted to know, and Lauren Block included what her young patients were asking her to determine what to highlight in the book. They say, “There’s a lot of anxiety for adults, but for children, it’s about curiosity. We translate that curiosity into scientific fact and action that kids can readily understand.”

“Understanding is a big factor in securing adherence from children for all the changed things like the importance of thorough hand washing, staying away from their friends or missing a birthday party that we are asking them to do,” Adam Block points out.

The Science of COVID-19

The science behind the coronavirus is probably murky in your children’s minds as it may be in yours. What happens when you hug? Why can’t I go to my friend’s house yet? What happens if dad or mom gets sick? Science has answers.

“Young children don’t respond to numbers,” the Blocks say, “but you want to be able to answer their questions.”

What is a virus? The Blocks explain in the book, “A virus is a tiny germ. It’s so small that if you piled the virus on top of each other it would take about a thousand to be the same thickness of a piece of paper or a hair. It has little spikes on the outside that work like glue and stick to everything like Velcro.” Did you know that? I didn’t.

Alex Brissenden
Source: Alex Brissenden

How does the virus spread if everyone is staying at home? Answered. Am I going to get the virus? Answered. What happens if I do? Answered. The explanation of herd immunity is one of the most crucial knowledge elements covered. As this page illustration indicates, the number of people (shown in red) who are contagious or at risk for getting the virus drops once most people are vaccinated. As much as Joey, Kelly’s younger brother in the story says, “I don’t like shots,” the doctors’ summary helps prepare children for accepting vaccination once we have one.

Kelly Stays Home makes pandemic facts and rules less onerous for children by detailing why we are doing what we are to stay healthy. It tells kids how they can help themselves and higher risk family and community members. In short, this free, charming book (and it is, despite its subject matter) gives parents the tools and information to answer their children’s questions as they arise. Once read, it’s highly likely that your children will have or ask fewer questions. Take a look.

Courtesy of the Authors
Source: Courtesy of the Authors

And now that the vaccine is here, the doctors have written Kelly Gets a Vaccine: How We Beat Coronavirus" to help parents discuss how vaccines work, what to expect, and how vaccination helps us move beyond the pandemic. Ages 5 & up. Free download here.

Copyright @2020 by Susan Newman


Related: Why Only Children Do Better Than You Think in Quarantine

More Babies or More Divorces After COVID-19?

Illustrations by Alex Brissenden