EL DORADO, Ark. (03/12/20) — The rapid spread of the Coronvirus has sparked alarm worldwide and now we’re seeing children inadvertently affected.
Businesses are opting for employees to work from home. Some universities and community colleges are opting for online instruction versus face to face interaction while several high schools have opted to close their doors until the end of the month.
Local and national sports are also being affected. In the United States, more than 1,000 people have become sick with COVID-19 and at least 33 have been killed.
Is this a conversation parents should be having with their kids? Director of Counseling and Disability Support at South Arkansas Community College, Vanessa Williams, says yes. Especially if kids are asking questions about what’s going on.
“Remind them that the school, health officials are doing everything they can so that we can stay healthy,” Williams said.
She recommends kids of all ages be told told about the virus especially as it relates to how they can prevent the spread of germs. The conversation with elementary aged children shouldn’t be as complex, depending on your child.
“You want to talk to your younger children about just washing your hands keeping their hands off of their faces and out of their mouths,” she said.
Williams suggests breaking the conversation down into simpler terms by comparing COVID-19 symptoms to a common cold or influenza so that they can understand.
The conversation with this age group will be a similar talk to your high school aged and college bound children though the conversation may be a little more serious.
“A lot of them want to go on spring break trips, I think there has to be a serious conversation about the risks involved,” she said. “Even though the risk may be low, you can tell them to use sanitizer, wash their hands and be mindful of the germs and how they spread in general.
If a parents is really adamant about their child not leaving the state, Williams also recommends to explain to their kids the number of cases that are in the specific state they wish to travel to and also give them other options of having fun.
This includes finding local activities for children to engage in where they aren’t traveling far and putting themselves at risk to catch the disease.
“You can offer them some alternatives as well,” she said. “Maybe take the trip later maybe after things have stabilized.”
The most important thing Williams advises parents to do is remain calm, don’t be afraid and give their children the facts.
“Parents have got to calm down because we are setting examples for our kids about how to act and how to respond,” Williams said. “So, we have to get our own anxiety under control so that we can help our kids through this.”
Williams recommends parents who are unable to have this conversation with their child should be accompanied by a counselor, pastor or family-friend that they trust.