What should I say about the coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Should I just ignore it?
Should I just let someone else explain it?
As the parent of a child with special needs, you’re likely to ask yourself these questions and more.
However, during moments of uncertainty, it’s best to equip children with answers.
If they receive answers elsewhere, they may not obtain the right information. On the other hand, they may receive the right information, but they may misunderstand it.
For this reason, it’s not only your responsibility to share the information, but you must make sure that your children understand it.
So, what three things will I share about the coronavirus pandemic today?
Fear-mongering is not your friend
As mentioned in the introduction, it’s in your best interest to share information before your children hear it elsewhere. For instance, whenever news outlets offer information to the public, the message is not filtered for individual viewers.
Instead, the message is like constructing a vehicle on an assembly line. In other words, it’s for the general audience. However, as the parent of a child with special needs, you’ll likely know your child more than the average news anchor, blogger, etc.
Therefore, you know the best way to deliver information. What does this mean? For the general public, headlines and information will occur in a way to get mass attention.
What’s the best way to go viral and garner mass attention online? Well, offer click-bait headlines. Fear triggers a reaction, so it’s not uncommon to come across news reports and articles that stoke panic around the coronavirus.
As a parent, the aim is to customize the message that specifically suits your child. This way, you can reach your child at his or her level of understanding. For media outlets, stoking fear, through headlines, will work for the viewership algorithm.
As the parent of a child with special needs, and while discussing this topic, you know all too well that fear is your enemy.
When a family washes hands together, they’ll stay together
Whether it involves adults or children, we’re more likely to do something whenever we see other participants. For instance, if you want a healthier eating lifestyle at home, don’t merely tell your family to eat healthier.
Instead, begin preparing healthier meals and eat together. This way, everyone feels involved. In terms of the coronavirus, describe the best method to wash your hands.
In this description, you can even make handwashing appear fun. While washing your hands, consider singing your child’s favorite song, or see who can make his or her hands appear soapier.
Whatever you decide, do it together. Most importantly, regardless if inside or outside the home, make this hygiene process a consistent and common daily practice.
So, how should we wash our hands? This may seem like a silly question, but the reality is quite surprising. According to a study by Michigan State University in 2013, about 95% of people wash their hands improperly.
So, how should we wash our hands? First, wet your hands with warm water. Then apply soap and begin lathering your hands as well as wrists. Get in between your fingers, the back of your hands, and underneath your nails.
For at least 20 seconds, continue this scrubbing and lathering process. For most people, humming the Happy Birthday song twice will come in handy, but you can use a brief section of your child’s favorite song.
After 20 seconds, or after the song, you can rinse your hands. Finally, dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. You can use this paper towel to close off the faucet.
Change of habits is the new normal
Because we should be familiar with the ease of spreading germs, altering common behavioral norms will offer many benefits
As you continue to engage with your child about the coronavirus, explain the importance of creating a new normal.
For instance, it may not be a common practice to cover one’s mouth while coughing. However, going forward, you can say the following: whenever I feel the urge to cough, I’ll cough in my elbow like this.
In addition, you can also say the following: whenever I know that I’m about to sneeze, I’ll either cover my mouth with a tissue, or I’ll sneeze in my elbow like this.
If you decide to use a tissue, be sure to explain the importance of discarding said tissue after one use.
Based on different studies, the average person will touch his or her face between five to 23 times per hour. Did you know? Guess what else? Viruses, like the coronavirus, spread due to the transfer of germs and bacteria.
From our hands to mouth, eyes, and other areas of the face, we’re actually helping germs. For this reason, explain the importance of ceasing what we all do habitually: making contact with the face.
Remember, our hands interact with countless germs and bacteria throughout the day. Without even thinking, our hands will end up touching our eyes, lips, cheeks, etc.
As an adult, you know about the abundance of germs, and you still touch your face. Well, just imagine what it’s like to be a kid again. Separate from putting an end to touching one’s face, make it a new normal to disinfect often overlooked areas like doorknobs, hand railings, etc.
By creating healthy habits at home, you can lower the risks associated with the coronavirus and even the common cold. In addition, by creating a new normal, you can implement a process that’s active whether a virus is present or not.
As the parent of a child with special needs, it’s important to take the lead on things before your child receives information elsewhere. This way, you can answer all of their concerns, and offer a safe space for communication.
Most importantly, you don’t want your child to remain fearful as media outlets stoke panic, despair, and bombard viewers with sensationalism.
At Occupational Therapy Concept, You’re Family. For a Free consultation, give me a
call at (718) 285-0884 for further evaluation and customized help for your child’s needs.