Updated: Mar 15, 2020
4 simple ways to talk to your kids about the Coronavirus
Let me start by saying:
#1: Deep breath in…. And deep breath out!
(In spanish: "Inala…. Exala")
Breath in… &… out!
(do it again... 3 deep ones)
Come on, I’m talking to you! Do it with me...
#2 Now put one hand on your heart heart and one on your tummy and:
Deep Breath in (hold, 1,2,3,4) … &… out (1,2,3,4)
(Three more times!)
That’s it , “Breathe in ... & out... !” ,
“Breathe in ... & out... !” ,
“Breathe in ... & out... !”
During this time of such uncertainty and unprecedented standstill we are all forgetting to simply breathe. Let’s try to remain present and in our bodies and let’s work together to raise each other up and activate healing, calm, and well-being all around.
As one of my parents said this morning: “Keep Calm and Carry On!”
(and I add, in new un-chartered waters and from home, please!)
I am writing today because I have had at least twenty something conversations in the past 24-hours with little ears popping up in the background.
As adults we have all been running around “nesting,” (some hoarding,) watching the news, showing up on Social Media, calling friends and family members to process all the scary information coming at us and trying to figure out what information we are not getting. I feel like I am constantly standing in front of a target and dodging thousands of darts coming at me... constantly! (even in my sleep)
Following are a few suggestions for how to include your Littles in the conversation, activities you can do to help them feel a little empowered, and a bit of peace of mind for you!
This is my personal advice/suggestions from 20+ years of working with kids ages 2-6 years old ( you can adjust for older and younger kids as you see fit, I am even using this model for my teens.) And this is how I would work with your kids if they were at school with us the next few weeks. You can take it all, take some, or leave it.
Here are 4 simple ways in which you can help ground your kids and create a safe container for your kids to process the impacts of this world-wide crisis.
Include your kids in the conversation.
Get them involved in preparations.
Teach your kids ways to take care of themselves: good nutrition, supplements, & washing hands.
Give them daily “anchors.”
1) Include the kiddos in the conversation.
Most of us don’t even know the extent of what is going on, but we do know a few things:
We know there is a virus,
We know we have to prepare to stay in,
We know we have to take care of our immune system to fight this virus,
We know we have to be aware and care for others.
How we speak: In our conversations we have to be careful to NOT be alarmist- just state the facts. Try to remain as neutral as you can. Most of the time we speak to our Littles, they hear approximately 20% our words and observe 80% of our mannerisms, our body language. So be mindful of this when communicating. State the words simply and remain calm. They can read through the lines, so if you don’t believe your words, they won’t either. Remember 20% of what you say goes in through their ears and 80% is being absorbed through all of their other senses.
State the facts calmly and matter of factly: For example: “The reason why we are staying home from school is because there is a virus called the Coronavirus."
To which your kid may ask:
Q. "What is a virus?"
A. "A virus is like a little “bug” that jumps from person to person really quick, and when it enters our bodies, our bodies say: “no way, you don’t belong in here! And we try to kick it out by coughing, or by sneezing, or sometimes our super smart bodies get really hot, to see if the virus gets out to cool off. It doesn't feel great when our bodies have to fight bugs that don’t belong that’s why we need to rest, because we need to help our super smart bodies to fight this bug out! We also stay home so that while our bodies are fighting the bug, the bug doesn’t accidentally jump into another person and then they have to fight too!"
At this point it would be great if you offer a chance to come up with an art activity: “How about we draw a picture of what this bug looks like to you?” or you can come up with a song about the Corona bug, or build a Corona bug from Legos or Magnatiles!
What we are trying to do here, is state the fact and then give them a way to process it and own it. Take its power.
We can add “even though we don’t have this bug in our bodies right now, the Corona bug is a SUPER quick bug. Kind of like a … I don’t know, can you tell me the name of a super fast animal (or superhero, or character) that you know off ? [give them a chance to jump in]? Yes, like a cheetah bug! This is why we are all staying home. You are staying home from school, we are home from work… so that this super fast bug can run around super fast and we humans don’t give it a home. We are saying, hey bug, this is our home, not yours!”
* NOTE: Leave the unknowns out of the conversation- only share what you know. Try not to create more uncertainty, they feel plenty coming from us already! And if they ask something that you don’t know, say, “I don’t know! But I will try to find the information and get back to you soon!”
And finally, always invite them to tell you what they know! Invite them to partake in the conversation. Approach these difficult subjects with a flare of curiosity and positivity!
2) Get them involved in preparations.
Go back to Heading #1 and get them involved in the conversation. Matter of factly and add an activity to help empower them and help take away some of the fear and uncertainty of these times.
On staying in: “We are buying all the supplies we need to stay home for a little bit, like food, medicine, toys, while the Coronavirus, calms down and stops jumping into people! Can you help me put away our supplies in the cabinet. We can even make labels with the names of our supplies together.”
Help stop the spread- this message is a great service based learning opportunity! The moment that we start talking about “other” we are teaching our kids to care for others.We are teaching them empathy! At this age, this always starts with learning about self and then moving on to others. For ex: “ Another reason why we are staying in, is because we want to make sure that we keep these little bugs from jumping to other people that may not have such strong little soldiers like ours. We could have the bug and because our soldiers are so strong we don’t even feel it, and still pass it on. Other people with soldiers that are not that strong, will have a harder time fighting the bug and will feel really yucky as they try to fight it. And we don’t want other people to feel yucky!”
3) Teach your kids ways to take care of themselves: good nutrition, supplements, & washing hands.
On caring for our immune system to fight this virus: “our bodies have little soldiers that are great at fighting viruses of all kinds! Let’s call them the immunity soldiers. And we need to help our soldiers get really strong. This is why we eat foods that are filled with superpowers: like oranges (and most orange fruits and vegetables) have vitamin C which is a great Vitamin to help the immunity soldiers build strong fighting muscles." For more on boosting your child’s immune system check out Chelsea’s recommendations (MS, RD, Founder and Owner of VICTAE) see bonus at the bottom of this post or click on this link.
You can also come up with a list of good foods for fighting the Corona bug and make drawings/posters, and place them in the kitchen as a reminder for all!
On washing hands: “One way in which we can fight this virus, is by washing our hands a ton. Viruses are SUPER tiny- so tiny that we can’t even see them with our eyes. And they jump into our bodies through our little doorways into our body: our mouth, our eyes, our nose… and usually we pick up these bugs with our hands without even seeing them (because they are SO TINY!) so before touching our little doorways (our mouth, eyes, nose…) we wash our hands REALLY, REALLY, WELL, to get rid of these tiny bugs!”
One of the ways that I teach kids to wash their hands in school is by demonstrating making tons of soap suds and really focus on the bubbles and suds you make as the point of interest. I always wash my hands with them and make this a bonding experience so that it is a positive thing they will want to do often! (and in turn, I wash my own hands A TON!)
I have for years sung with them (to the tune of Row your Boat):
“Wash, wash, wash your hands
with a drop of soap,
scrub and scrub and make some suds
Or use a stanza or chorus from your favorite song! ("Let it Go!," is a fun one)
In the Montessori classroom, we have a table with a bowl and a jug and make washing our hands a regular job. Not out of necessity but out of practice. You too can make a Washing Hands station in your home for regular practice and in turn fun water play 😉
4) Give them daily “anchors.”
To me, this is one of the most important ways to keep our kids at bay. While school may be out, and life is a little topsy turvy right now, there are certain anchors that ground the most untethered boats. We need to figure out what these anchors are for each of us. As a school, Greenleaf is offering daily check-ins virtually at the same time that we usually have our circle time. So that even though they are not at school, school throws an anchor to bring back a tiny sense of normalcy. As small as these may be, they are sooo necessary!
Old Anchors: You can keep your morning routine the same for ex. Wake-up, eat the same breakfast on Monday - Friday, and establish “school at home” time. From 9-11 you can have pretend school time and make this independent play/work time. You can even pack a lunchbox for you and your child and take a lunch break and eat together.
New Anchors: You can make new anchors (new mini spurts of routine) that you are going to do daily throughout the day. Many parents are being forced to work from home and also care for their kids, this creates finding balance, stressful.
You do not need to entertain your child 24/7 when they are at home. They will be a bit more cookoo because of the change in routine, the stress in the air, and “cabin fever.” But I will repeat, you do not have to entertain your child 24/7.
Instead, create anchors!
Make little pauses throughout the day and establish mini routines to connect, then go back to adulting. Kids are so much more capable of entertaining themselves than we give them credit for.
Ideas for Anchors:
Meals- eat together. This is the easiest built in framework for our days. Our day is structured around meals. What happens between breakfast and lunch- what happens between lunch and dinner, and what happens after dinner… Anchors!
3- minute dance party (1 song) stop what you are doing and have a family dance party! Have one a day.
A story- have one-on-one story time. 1 story! Don’t fall into, “one more, just one more” because then it is no longer an anchor but a full activity. You want anchors to be sustainable, repeatable daily.
Make a snack- create a fun snack daily that is available in a self-serve table somewhere in the house (remind to wash hands before eating)
Wash hands- awesome multi purpose anchor right now.
1-minute “Silence Game” - sit together, close your eyes, and listen to the sounds around you. When you open your eyes, talk about the sounds you heard. Try really hard to get more specific everytime. Isolating our senses is a great way to ground and calm our bodies. This is not only good for your kids, but also a great Mindful exercise for YOU!
Play “I spy” one thing- just like the silence game, this is the same thing but with one thing we see! “ I spy with my little eye one thing that is red” for example. As an anchor keep it to one. So that you can do it daily.
These are a few options for you to see how making tiny little connective moments as a routine (anchors) will help your kids feel safe and settled.
I know this is a lot, for us all, Littles included. Moments like these bring out the best and the worst in us all. Fear based reactivity leads to misery. Operate from love, acknowledge the fear and understand that everyone has a place in this process.
Kids have a magical way to be in the present, take the lead from them, and take advantage that they are around you to help keep you grounded. They have always been my biggest inspiration. Kids remind me of the wonders of life- they are our miraculous tethers. Include your kids in this process of survival and preservation, not just because it will help them, but because it will help us all stay centered and calm. We need us all calm and present so that we can be here for each other, connected, and uplifting!
Thanks for reading!
Con much amor 💕
Vanessa is the owner of Greenleaf Mindful Montessori Preschool. She's been an Early Child Educator for over 2 decades. She’s originally from Caracas, Venezuela and now resides with her two teenagers (2 dogs and 4 birds) in Sherman Oaks, California. You can follow her on IG Greenleaf_Montessori or chat with her on FB group “Backyard Kid Talk.” www.greenleafmontessori.com
BONUS FROM CHELSEA:
Here are my top 8 quick and easy ways to keep you and your child healthy and your immune systems strong:
1. Choose foods rich in probiotics, like low-sugar plain Greek yogurt, plain Kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi
Gut health plays a vital role in regulating our immune system.
Snack idea: Add plain Greek yogurt to a chocolate banana “milkshake” (ahem, smoothie 😉)
2. Choose foods like bananas, berries, onions, leafy greens, oats, almonds, and barley
Prebiotic foods, which are fiber-rich foods that feed the healthy bacteria in our gut, can help boost our immune system.
Meal idea: Make “Fruit Sushi” using a banana and almond butter, like this recipe>>https://www.victae.com/blog/fruit-sushi-with-pomegranate-roe
3. Try to limit added, processed sugars, refined grains, fried food, and highly processed snacks
Eat less of the foods that can make bad, unhealthy bacteria grow in our gut.
Snack idea: Instead of high-sugar and refined-flour muffins, try these Pumpkin Spice Energy Balls>>https://www.victae.com/blog/video-pumpkin-spice-energy-balls
4. Look for vitamin D fortified almond milk or dairy milk, fatty fish, and eggs to boost your supply.
Vitamin D deficiency may be correlated to lower immune function.
It can be difficult to get enough vitamin D, especially in the cold, winter months.
Meal Idea: Try these super quick and easy Italian Inspired Egg Muffins (they freeze well, too!)>> https://www.victae.com/blog/italian-inspired-egg-muffins
5. Increase your zinc by eating more beans, nuts, and tofu.
Zinc is a great immune booster.
Meal idea: Children of all ages love sushi, and these Easiest Vegan Chili will make great use of all the canned beans you may have stocked up on>>https://www.victae.com/blog/easiest-vegan-chili
6. Plant foods rich in beta-carotene (sweet potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach) can help boost your immune system.
Snack Idea: Make a “Green Monster Smoothie” by adding spinach to your little one’s favorite fruit smoothie. Or, if your children don’t like green food, hide the spinach in the smoothie and make a “chocolate shake” by adding cocoa powder.
7. Protein can also plays an important role in your immune system. Choose plant-based protein sources, like nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and tofu.
Meal Idea: Add walnuts or almonds to oatmeal or serve a rice and bean burrito bowl (load up on the veggies, too!).
8. Vitamin E, found in nuts and seeds, is an antioxidant that may improve your immune system.
Meal Idea: Getting more vitamin E in your child is as easy as serving a peanut butter sandwich on a seedy bread. As if we needed another reason to eat almond butter and peanut butter 😉
If you would like to learn how to create 21 immune boosting meals and snacks with only 10 pantry staples, then you can download your FREE guide, The Busy Person’s Ultimate Guide to Quick and Easy Meals & Snacks>> www.victae.com/cheatsheet
I’d love to help support you in keeping your family strong and healthy! ~Chelsea Gloeckner, MS, RD, Founder and Owner of VICTAE