No school, no playdates
As I write this it is day three of no school and working from home for most of America families. We are all experiencing unprecedented daily changes, increasing death tolls, infection numbers, restaurants and retails closings. Anxiety is high and we can't really protect our kids from hearing about what is happening in the world. My session notes have gone from how to talk about the Coronavirus, to social distancing and now today I am going to share with you my most frequently asked questions from the week and a short version of a response. My hope is that if you are being asked similar questions this may help you answer them and if your child isn't asking this will help you be prepared or even have a conversation starter.
Is it ever going to end?
It's been a week since most of my clients got the call or email from the school that they would be closing. Some families said the wording they received was "extended spring break" and some families said the email read something like, "we are closing and we will have to wait and see when we can re-open..." This was naturally unsettling.
Each and every day anxiety has heightened for families. Kids cleared out lockers, brought home laptops or stacks of books with no certainty if they would return this school year. The kids I work with went from having some questions to having a lot of questions. This week brought about more tele-health sessions (video calls) than I have ever had before in one week. There were some consistent themes to their questions.
Q. Is this ever going to end?
A. Doctors, government officials, and historians say the severity and duration of the outbreak will depend on our ability to listen and follow directions over the next few weeks and months. Yes, it will eventually end but when it does has a lot to do with how we respond.
Q. Can I do sleepovers with friends who I have been spending time with every day up until school closed?
A. Play dates, sleepovers and parties are highly discouraged. It is the whole point of social distancing. This is a virus that mainly gets spread from person to person contact so we are supposed to be interacting with as little people as possible regardless of whether we see them every day or not. Your immediate family that you live with should really be it for a while, sorry! This is for everyone's safety and health.
Q. Can we at least go outside and ride bikes or go for walks?
A. Yes, getting fresh air and sunshine is encouraged. However, you still need to practice social distancing and being 6 feet away from others that you don't live with. Also, keep in mind that playgrounds are off limits right now. Some people are wearing gloves at the playground, that is up to your parents whether they are comfortable with that or not.
Q. I have been reading so much I am out of books and the libraries are closed, what should I do?
A. There are a number of things you can do. Check out Little Free Libraries (outdoor book exchanges in some communities), download audio books (you can do that through Audibles or many libraries have a free system for this as well), post on a social media app that you want to swap or borrow books and or order books for purchase online. You can also start writing your own book!
Q. Is prom and graduation going to be cancelled?
A. I am so sorry that this is happening during such important and major milestones in your life, I can imagine how disappointing it is to think about missing out on these things. Right now no one knows how long large gatherings will be restricted so you have to work on continuing to be flexible. Right now we are all living in a Plan B. I know this is very hard but let's just try to wait and see what happens over the next few weeks.
Q. I am not a teacher, how I am supposed to keep up with my kid's learning plans?
A. I have been hearing this quite a bit, each family has a very different approach. Some families have schools that use Google Classrooms and are truly distance or online learning. Some families were sent with simple instructions such as, "have them read every day and practice math facts..."
What I think is structure and schedules are important. I am advising for most kids that they get up around the same time, eat breakfast and start their learning day as they would in school. Kids may slip in significant ways if they are left to sit in front of a screen most of the day. Reach out to the teacher or look up the many free online resources that are available by grade and start using what is already online.
Q. What if someone in my family gets Coronavirus?
A. Most people who are infected with Coronavirus (COVID-19) feel like they have a bad cold or the flu. Most people get better after a few weeks. Kids have been less affected than others with this virus. But if you do get infected, you might have a dry cough, a fever, and shortness of breath. But just like when you’ve had a cold, the best treatment is to stay in bed, get rest, stay hydrated and away from anyone who might catch it from you.
Q. I have heard that when the weather gets warmer the Coronavirus might go away, is that true?
A. Doctors hope that as the weather gets warmer, the number of cases will start to go down, just as similar diseases have done in the past. But, since the virus is novel and they don’t know a lot about it, they’re not sure what, if any affect, the warmer weather will have on the virus.
There you have it, over the past week these have been my most frequently asked questions by kids ranging from ages 8-18. No matter the question and whether or not you have the answer, the key is to stay calm, be reassuring that they will get through this and that they will get to see their friends, play sports and eat out again. We just don't know when yet.
For my previous articles on talking to kids about Coronavirus read here. And for current articles, media segments and updates please follow me on Facebook where I post articles and videos that I think are important to mental health issues.
Stay healthy, wash your hands, don't touch your face, and stay home as much as possible.