Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world and the news cycle is nonstop. While we need and want education about safety and resources, it all can be overwhelming to anyone, especially our youth. It is inevitable for teens to talk among their friends and family members on laptops, social media, and mobile devices. Among these conversations, parents can assume their children are misinformed about the infectious disease. Therefore, it is vital that parents talk to their children and answer questions regarding COVID-19.
Admittedly, everyone is still learning about COVID-19, and thus, answers to questions about transmission, detection, and treatment remain amidst. In fact, the unknown, is one of the scariest things about this pandemic. MileStone Academy encourages you to focus what you do know, instead of the unknown, and educate your family and friends.
It is important to remember that children look to adults for guidance on how to react to stressful events.
Acknowledging and teaching loved one’s positive preventive measures, talking with them about their fears, and giving them a sense of control over their risk of infection can help reduce anxiety. This is also a great opportunity for adults to model for children problem-solving, flexibility, and compassion as we all work through adjusting daily schedules, balancing work and other activities, getting creative about how we spend time, processing new information from authorities, and connecting and supporting friends and family members in new ways. Here are eight tips from the National Association of School Psychologists to help you get started:
STAY CALM, LISTEN, AND OFFER REASSURANCE
Be a role model. Children will react to and follow your reactions. They learn from your example.
Be aware of how you talk about COVID-19. Your discussion about COVID-19 can increase or decrease your child’s fear. If true, remind your child that your family is healthy, and you are going to do everything within your power to keep loved ones safe and well. Carefully listen or have them draw or write out their thoughts and feelings and respond with truth and reassurance.
Explain social distancing. Children do not fully understand why parents/guardians aren’t allowing them to be with friends. Tell your child that your family is following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which include social distancing. Social distancing means staying away from others until the risk of contracting COVID-19 is under control. Showing older children, the “flatten the curve” charts will help them grasp the significance of social distancing. Explain that while we don’t know how long it will take to “flatten the curve” to reduce the number of those infected, we do know that this is a critical time—we must follow the guidelines of health experts to do our part.
Demonstrate deep breathing. Deep breathing is a valuable tool for calming the nervous system. Do breathing exercises with your children.
Focus on the positive. Celebrate having more time to spend as a family. Make it as fun as possible. Do family projects. Organize belongings, create masterpieces. Sing, laugh, and go outside, if possible, to connect with nature and get needed exercise. Allow older children to connect with their friends virtually.
Establish and maintain a daily routine. Keeping a regular schedule supplies a sense of control, predictability, calm, and well-being. It also helps children and other family members respect others’ need for quiet or uninterrupted time and when they can connect with friends virtually.
Identify projects that might help others. This could include: writing letters to the neighbors or others who might be stuck at home alone or to healthcare workers; sending positive messages over social media; or reading a favorite children’s book on a social media platform for younger children to hear.
Offer lots of love and affection. Sadly, handshakes and hugs need to be limited to immediate family members or friends in living your household, at least for now. However, you can use technology to stay connected! Email, social media, text messages and good ole’ fashioned phone calls will brighten someone’s day.
MONITOR TELEVISION VIEWING AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Parents/guardians should check television, internet, and social media viewing—both for themselves and their children. Watching continual updates on COVID-19 may increase fear and anxiety. Developmentally inappropriate information, or information designed for adults, can also cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children.
Dispel rumors and inaccurate information. Explain to your child that many stories about COVID-19 on the internet may include rumors and inaccurate information. Older children may be accessing a great deal of information online and from friends that holds inaccuracies. Talk to your child about factual disease information.
Supply alternatives. Engage your child in games or other exciting activities instead.
TAKE TIME TO TALK
Let your children’s questions guide you. Answer their questions truthfully, but do not offer unnecessary details or facts. Do not avoid giving them the information that experts indicate as crucial to your children’s well-being. Often, children and youth do not talk about their concerns because they are confused or do not want to worry loved ones. Younger children absorb scary information in waves. They ask questions, listen, play, and then repeat the cycle. Children always feel empowered if they can control aspects of their life. A sense of control reduces fear.
BE HONEST AND ACCURATE
Correct misinformation. Children often imagine situations worse than reality; therefore, offering developmentally proper facts can reduce fears.
Explain simple safety steps. Tell your child this disease spreads between people who are in close contact with one another, when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or when one touches infected objects or surfaces.
Stay up to date on the facts. Click here for more factual information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
KEEP EXPLANATIONS AGE-APPROPRIATE
proper reassurances that adults are there to help keep them healthy and to take care of them if they do get sick. Give simple examples of the steps people make every day to stop germs and stay healthy, such as washing hands. Use language such as “adults are working hard to keep you safe.”
Upper elementary and early middle school children. This age group often is more vocal in asking questions about whether they indeed are safe and what will happen if COVID-19 spreads in their area. They may need help separating reality from rumor and fantasy. Discuss the efforts national, state, and community leaders are doing to prevent germs from spreading.
Upper middle and high school students. Issues can be discussed in more depth. Refer them to reliable sources of COVID-19 facts. Be honest, accurate, and factual information about the current status of COVID-19. Engage them in decision-making about family plans, scheduling, and helping with chores at home.
For all children, encourage them to verbalize their thoughts and feelings. Be a good listener!
STAY CONNECTED TO MILESTONE ACADEMY
MileStone has implemented a virtual platform to educate our students. We are now using the internet platforms Google Classroom and Hangouts. These platforms assist us in teaching the children live and assigning tasks for students to complete.
We have begun engaging MileStone students by having them answer a question of the day. In addition, we have decided to base student’s learning on a specific theme that will be the main topic of each class.
Some of the lessons, teachers have developed include places to visit, and famous places to eat just to name a few. To further enhance this topic, videos, virtual tours online, journal assignments along with face to face instruction has assisted in teaching each week’s’ topic.
With this transition to online learning, Milestone Senior student’s have not been forgotten. Individual conferences are being held with each Senior student to continue their learning. They have already been introduced to resume writing and completing job applications. In addition, they are individually working on projects that are to be completed by the end of this school year. The many hours of work that our Seniors and Educators have invested in these Senior students will continue throughout this online learning process.
In the coming weeks, the students and teachers will certainly become more familiar with these teaching platforms. The level of excitement and engagement from the students will continue to grow as we partake in this new online learning endeavor.
As the weeks pass, we will surely update you on the progress our students are making as we and they attempt to bridge the gap between the classroom and their home situation.
Click here for more resources, such as meals, or technology, such as a laptop or tablet.
Contact your child’s teacher at MileStone Academy to learn more about our learning resources, concerns about coping, and keeping up with assignments or activities.
KNOW THE SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19
According to the CDC, symptoms of fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath appear within 14 days after being exposed to the disease.
For some people, the symptoms are like having a cold; for others, they are more severe or even life threatening.
MODEL BASIC HYGIENE AND HEALTHY LIFESTYLE PRACTICES
Practice daily good hygiene. Encourage your child to practice these simple steps to prevent spreading the virus.
Wash your hands multiple times a day for 20 seconds. Singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “Happy Birthday” twice is about 20 seconds.
Compliment your children when they use a Kleenex or sneeze or cough into the bend of their elbow. Teach them the importance of throwing away used tissues immediately after sneezing or coughing.
Foster a sense of control. Offering guidance on what your child/children can do to prevent infection offers them a greater sense of control, which reduces anxiety.
Build the immune system. Encourage your child to eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly; this will help them develop a robust immune system to fight off illness.
BE AWARE OF YOUR CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH
Most children will manage well with the support of parents and other family members, even if showing signs of anxiety or concerns, such as difficulty sleeping or concentrating. Other children, however, may have risk factors for more intense reactions, including severe anxiety, depression, and suicidal behaviors. Risk factors can include a pre-existing mental health problem, prior traumatic experiences or abuse, family instability, or the loss of a loved one. Parents and caregivers should contact a professional if children show significant changes in behavior or any of the following symptoms for more than 2 weeks.
Preschoolers—thumb sucking, bedwetting, clinging to parents, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, fear of the dark, regression in behavior, and withdrawal.
Elementary school children—irritability, aggressiveness, clinginess, nightmares, school avoidance, poor concentration, and withdrawal from activities and friends.
Adolescents—sleeping and eating disturbances, agitation, increase in conflicts, physical complaints, delinquent behavior, and poor concentration.