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With schools closed and more parents and caregivers working from home, it can be challenging for children to understand all the changes being required because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Tina Ardon, a Mayo Clinic family medicine physician, says it's important for families to share information and make decisions to help their children feel more comfortable at an uncertain time.
"Right now, information is changing rapidly. It can feel very overwhelming to children," says Dr. Ardon.
The mother of three shares some tips for helping families manage:
Use age-appropriate language.
"I think as a family, how you talk about COVID-19 depends on the ages of your children and who's in your family," says Dr. Ardon.
Take social distancing, for instance. "I think it's hard to explain the idea of social distancing to a young child. I think it may be helpful for parents to think about this idea that we're doing something to help others," she says.
As a mother of three, Dr. Ardon says this approach is what worked for her. "So in my house, I explained to my two girls ― who are very much interested in going outside the house, going places, eating at restaurants, going to the movies ― that we're going to stay at home now because it not only helps keep germs out of our house, it also helps protect people in our community."
Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Ardon are in the downloads at the end of the post. Please courtesy "Tina Ardon, M.D. / Family Medicine / Mayo Clinic."
Acknowledge kids' personalities and feelings.
"Different personality types may lend themselves to being a little bit more anxious or worried about things, but talking about feeling is important, even as adults," says Dr. Ardon. "We want to make sure our kids know that they can be safe to come with us with whatever emotion they are feeling. It's OK to feel a little anxious. It's OK to be a little scared. It's OK to not know what's going to happen."
Make a social media and screen time plan.
"I would encourage families to think about what that screen time looks like for them and for those individual children within their families. Though social distancing may be driving us to use our phones, our iPads and tablets to talk to other folks, it may be that social media is not the best place for children to be spending a lot of time. Maybe it's spending more time with an interactive game, or a more educational TV show or movie time as a family. As a family, you should make those decisions."