Updated March 30, 2020
You’re inundated with coronavirus (COVID-19) information, and as a parent you’re probably feeling a bit nervous, like Lindsey Manning, mom of two and creator of Crafting with Kids. “Before I had kids,” she told me, “I’d hear about outbreaks of illness and it wouldn’t phase me. But now everything has changed. I worry because my kids don’t understand the importance of preventive measures – and because so many things about their health are out of my control.”
Like Lindsey, many parents aren’t sure what to think. They hope that the virus has been over-hyped or that it won’t reach their community, but those scenarios seem increasingly unlikely. So they don’t know exactly what to do.
If you’re feeling uncertain, you’re not alone. But instead of worrying, focus your energy on getting ready – just in case. Here are 4 things you need to know and do this week:
4 Coronavirus Tips for Parents
1. Don’t panic. Yes, the coronavirus situation feels scary. Most of us have never heard the words pandemic or case fatality rate in any context that affects our everyday lives. But all of a sudden, we’re hearing those words every day.
But the reality is that most of us won’t come down with COVID-19, and most who do will experience a mild illness. As the virus spreads, public health officials will put guidelines in place to slow it down. (And we’ll need to be prepared to follow those guidelines – more on that in a minute.)
3/30/2020 Update on COVID-19 in children – Although it still appears that children who contract the illness generally experience mild or moderate symptoms, they don’t seem to be as immune to it as health officials originally believed. Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, has just published a study of cases of COVID-19 in Chinese children, which found that children may play a significant role in community spread, even if they are experiencing no or very mild symptoms.
The best news in this study, according to the Harvard Medical School blog, is that about 90% of children experienced no symptoms or mild or moderate symptoms. The study raises concerns, however, about infants and children under 5, who tended to experience more severe symptoms than older children. Parents of all children, and especially young children, should keep them home as much as possible, limit the number of people who come in contact with them, and wash their hands frequently.
Dr. Claire McCarthy of Harvard Health Publishing recommends that parents absolutely seek medical care for any child who has:
- “any trouble breathing — rapid or forceful breathing, a pale or blue color to skin, trouble feeding or talking, or doing usual activities because of breathing problems
- a high fever you can’t get down (while it’s not certain, there have been some concerns raised about using ibuprofen with COVID-19 — out of an abundance of caution, best to use acetaminophen instead)
- unusual sleepiness
- pain or irritability you can’t soothe
- trouble drinking or refusal to drink, and is making less urine.”
For adults, the current estimate of the fatality rate is 1% to 3%, and much higher for older adults . (That’s significantly higher than the .10% rate for influenza, so coronavirus is not a disease to take lightly. But, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health and other experts believe that, as more information becomes available, we’ll learn that the fatality rate is actually lower, perhaps closer to 1.0%. In addition, many of the people who become very ill from COVID-19 have underlying health conditions, so the fatality rate for healthy people is likely to be lower.
2. Stay informed. The coronavirus situation changes every day. The number of cases and deaths is increasing, the guidelines for testing are changing, and information on the symptoms and mode of transmission is evolving. So as parents, we need to keep up to date and know what’s happening.
But which sources of information should we trust? You don’t have to spend much time online to realize that information on the virus runs the gamut, and that some of it veers toward crazy talk – what Dr. Eric Brenner of the University of South Carolina School of Public Health calls an “infodemic of false information.”
So when you’re looking for information, start with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is monitoring the disease for the entire U.S., issuing travel warnings, and providing daily updates about the number of cases, locations, and transmission. For updates on your community, check your state health department’s website regularly.
Other trustworthy medical and scientific websites, like WebMD and Scientific American are also providing regular updates and interesting information about the disease. Try to avoid political news on the coronavirus (it tends to be depressing and not helpful) and opinion articles written by non-experts.
3. Be prepared. Coronavirus illness is spreading in communities throughout the U.S., and measures are currently in place to contain and slow the spread. These include isolating people who are sick, closing schools and businesses, limiting travel, and encouraging people to stay home for a period of time.
So what can you do now to deal with the reality of school and business closures? The Scientific American blog has published an excellent article on why and how to prepare for COVID-19 in your community, and it’s well worth the read. It recommends not worrying about masks (unless you’re sick), but rather stocking up on shelf-stable and perishable food, drinking water, and medications your family will need for two or three weeks. And being prepared with toys, books, and games, in case everyone needs to spend a number of days or weeks at home.
Sarah De la Cruz, a mom of two and food preparation expert who lives in Kirkland, WA – the first coronavirus epicenter of the U.S. – has published a practical list of foods that families should stock right now (including tips for those with food allergies). She also notes that being able to stock up on food and supplies raises issues of privilege (many people don’t have the time, space, or money needed to stock up), but also creates an opportunity to share supplies with family members, neighbors, and friends who couldn’t purchase or store them. For example, you can shop and stock up for older family members or for those who have family members at high risk.
4. Talk with your kids. Most children in elementary school and older have heard about the coronavirus, and some of them are worried. So talk to them in a matter-of-fact way about the illness, keeping the focus on steps your family is taking to be prepared. And be sure to involve them in the preparations, which helps them gain a sense of control and keeps their minds from wandering into worry.
Dr. Orlena Kerek, mom, pediatrician, and health coach at drorlena.com, recommends focusing on basic hygiene with your children. She teaches her own children how to wash their hands, when to wash them, and how to cough and sneeze without spreading germs. On her website, she walks parents through ways to reduce the risk of illness in your family, recognize mild vs. serious illnesses, and care for your children if they do get sick.
And talk to your children about the importance of staying healthy so that their bodies can fight off all kinds of germs, not just coronavirus. This is a great opportunity to help them learn about eating healthy foods, getting plenty of exercise, and getting enough sleep.
The spread of coronavirus is scary for parents, but there’s no need to panic. Instead, take these four simple coronavirus tips for parents this week to make sure your family is prepared for whatever happens in your community.
Coronavirus Resources for Parents
As schools, stores, and other resources are closing, our job as parents is getting harder. While nothing is going to make this easy, here are some online resources that can help:
• Online Grocery Ordering – I’ve been using online order and pickup for more than a year, and have switched to delivery recently. It saves time, and right now it offers a way to stay out of stores and maintain social distance. (If you need to get out of the house, the pickup option may be better.) Many stores offer this option. You can save $10 on your first order from Walmart pickup or delivery by using this link. (This is my personal link – I’ll save $10 too if you use it.)
• Free Education Resources from Scholastic Learning – Scholastic is offering free online education programs for children in Pre-K through 6th grade. You do have to sign up for an account, but they provide a code so that you can access the resources for free. This can be a great resource is your children’s school closes for an extended period of time.
• Audiobooks for Kids – Some kids (even some very active kids) love audiobooks. Stephanie at Explore More, Clean Less used them to her (and her kids’) advantage when her family lived in a hotel room for weeks. Here are some tips for getting started with children’s audiobooks, and links to both free and paid audiobook resources.
• 150 Educational Shows on Netflix – If you have a Netflix account, use it to keep your kids occupied and help them learn some new things. Tiffany at Homeschool Hideout has put together a list of 150 educational shows on Netflix, divided into categories – Nature, History, Space, Dinosaurs, etc. She also has a great tip for organizing the educational shows that you and your children like best and a downloadable list of shows.
• 50 Virtual Field Trips to Take with Your Family – We can’t visit any interesting places right now, but we can explore them online. Debra at Housewife Eclectic has compiled a list of amazing places that offer virtual tours and resources – museums, national monuments, businesses, nature preserves, and countries. The list runs from the Smithsonian to the Great Wall of China, and from a sheep farm to the Ford Motor Company. There’s something for almost every kid (and parent) in this list.
• Fitness Blender Free Exercise Videos – Fitness Blender lets you pick exactly the kind of workout your want – type, duration, difficulty, equipment – and then offers a selection of free videos that provide that type of workout. Although it’s geared toward adults (and we need exercise right now as a stress reducer!), you can adapt it to let your kids work out (and burn off energy!) with you.
• Parenting Resources during COVID – The World Health Organization has put together a number of resources for healthy parenting during a crisis.
• Online Learning Resources – Links to online learning resources for parents and teachers from Prodigy.