How to protect your kids during a pandemic
Most parents' desire to safeguard their children cannot be overstated. They worry about everything from heartache to illness, and it's completely normal. However, add the threat of a global health crisis, and it can be difficult for parents to know what to do. So, what can help to ease your mind? All it takes is for you to implement and encourage health and hygiene practices with your kids in a way that they can understand.
Let's start with the basics - we can catch COVID-19 from other people who are infected with it. This can happen when a person who carries the virus sneezes or coughs, sending tiny droplets into the air or onto nearby surfaces which other people then come into contact with.
This means that each time you go out, specific care should be taken to ensure that you keep your hands clean and cover your airways. The same practices should apply to your children. However, many parents have trouble getting children to adhere to health practices without causing them to feel anxious or panicked. So, here are some tips to help you get the job done:
Lead by example
It's one of the age-old rules of parenting, and teaching our kids about protecting their health is firmly rooted in being a good role model. If you and other adults in your household practise health and hygiene precautions, children are more likely to do the same. Then it's up to you to reinforce these lessons with praise and encouragement to help it become a habit.
Help them learn through play
Games and incentives are a great way to encourage your little one to participate in lessons about health and hygiene. For example, introduce a concept such as giving kids a sticker for their mask or an activity book every time they wash their hands. Or for every ten times they wash their hands (within reason), kids can earn a treat or fun activity. It's important to reinforce that these are special circumstances and that handwashing should be a normal part of life, without requiring a reward.
What’s most important to you when it comes to cleaning?
Another play technique that can be used is the participation of toys in health and hygiene practices; like dolls and teddy bears also wearing face masks, or participating in hand washing rituals.
Encourage hand hygiene
Let your kids know that hand hygiene is one of the most important parts of stopping the spread of the virus. Make handwashing an activity, the whole family does together at specific intervals such as; before a meal, when you arrive home, after playing a game or with a toy, and before storytime. Ultimately reinforce the idea that hand washing should be a routine.
Sing songs and play games while washing hands to encourage kids to participate in it more frequently - this is especially good for smaller children. Soap, for example, is a simple tool for handwashing that can provide loads of entertainment in the form of lathering and bubble blowing.
Make wearing a mask in public a must
Children 2 years and older should wear cloth face-covering when they go out in public. Make sure that they understand that this is a normal way to go out, for now, to ensure that we all stay healthy. To reinforce this idea, you can use the same message each time you put on your masks. Use neutral wording like "let's put on our masks for safety." or "let's put on our shoes and masks."
You can also let your child choose a cloth mask design that they like. Or let them personalise their masks with something they like, such as colourful stickers or brightly coloured stitching.
Teach the new normal
Practice how to cough or sneeze into a tissue or a bent elbow together as a gesture of normal, good manners. Praise your children when they do it correctly and gently remind them when they forget. Use the concept of good and bad manners to encourage your children to stay away from people who are coughing, sneezing, or sick.
Encourage kids to maintain a social distance when out in public as a normal and respectful behaviour as well as offering them an alternative for greeting others, such as doing a high five gesture without touching each other, waving, or only touching with the elbow or foot.
Clean surfaces together
P-R-O-T-E-C-T your home from the spread of disease with a regular cleaning schedule and involve your kids in keeping frequently touched surfaces clean both inside and outside the home. Encourage them to help with the wiping of door handles, remotes, light switches, and tabletops with a good quality detergent such as Domestos Summer Fresh Thick Bleach or Handy Andy.
Keep conversation candid and positive
Build a positive understanding of the global health crisis by affirming and openly discussing the virus with your kids in a positive way. Teach your children to help prevent the spread of the virus as a natural part of parenting. Handle it like you would any other life skill by injecting fun, creativity and conversation into what can be a scary concept for some kids. As with any lesson, use this as an opportunity to encourage your kids to be caring, empathetic and socially aware.
Reassure your child or children with words.
For kids older than 2, implement a standard prevention playbook.
P-R-O-T-E-C-T your home from the spread of disease with house cleaning tips and tricks.
Download this UNICEF resource for parents with your children.