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What Parents Need to Know About the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

April 16, 2020 • Our Blog • Illness
With schools closing in Massachusetts (and across the country), the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting close to home. Here’s how parents can ease the stress of self-quarantining. With the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continuing to spread across the country and Massachusetts being among the hardest-hit states (as of April 15, 2020), parents are understandably beginning to feel anxious, confused, or even downright stir-crazy. The good news is that, based on current data, children have accounted for a disproportionately small fraction of COVID-19 cases in the United States thus far. As long as your child isn’t immunocompromised and doesn’t have a pre-existing respiratory condition, they are at no higher risk than adults are. The bad news? Children love to touch their faces, each other, surfaces, and you, which is a significant part of the reason schools and daycares have shut down, children’s museums have closed, and playdates are a no-go for the time being. If you’re working from home and your children are out of school, here’s how you can help them learn, entertain them, and keep your whole family — and community at large — safe from the threat of COVID-19.

Why the Novel Coronavirus Is Prompting Schools to Close

Closing schools isn’t a decision any state lawmaker takes lightly, and it’s one that may seem drastic at first. After all, if you’ve been keeping up with the news, you’ve probably heard that novel coronavirus symptoms are mild in most children and adults. So, if most children aren’t at serious risk, why are schools closing? Simply put, schools are community gathering places where large groups of people are placed in close proximity to each other for extended periods of time. As such, schools are a perfect breeding ground for the virus, and when children pass it to each other, they can carry it home to their parents and grandparents, who can carry it to their coworkers, who can carry it to their own families. A highly contagious virus can spread quickly when large groups of people congregate, and local, state, and national leaders are trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 by reducing the frequency of such gatherings. While having your kids home from school for an indefinite amount of time can be incredibly stressful and inconvenient — as well as frightening and confusing for your children — it’s vital to keeping our communities and our country safe.

How to Support Your Child’s Learning from Home

Most schools are providing (or are planning to provide) online learning options while children are at home. But even if your child is expected to “attend” school virtually, they might find it difficult to focus when they’re outside a normal classroom setting. If your child is in this situation, the best thing you can do is create a schedule they’re expected to stick to, simulating the experience of being at school. Wake them up at the same time Monday through Friday, maintain a reasonable bedtime, and set a schedule of when they’ll work on different subjects to recreate a “class schedule.” Throughout the “school day,” you should build in adequate breaks to avoid overtaxing your child’s attention span. But that brings us to the next question many parents have: how to entertain a child who’s going to be stuck at home indefinitely.

Entertaining Your Child While Social Distancing

One thing is for sure: playdates aren’t the answer. While contact between just a few kids and parents at a time may seem harmless, we would strongly suggest limiting you and your children’s social interaction as much as possible, especially in a high-risk state like Massachusetts. Instead, contrary to our usual stance, we’d suggest loosening enforcement of your child’s screen time limits. Of course, you don’t want your child to get completely sucked into their shows and games, but mindfully extending their daily screen time allowance by a half-hour (or even more) can be a good way to help your child stay calm and entertained during this stressful time. It’s also a good time to break out trusty analog activities like puzzles, board games, and blocks. For a bit of fresh air, there’s little risk to playing in your yard or riding bikes — just avoid playgrounds where groups of people could gather and COVID-19 could remain on surfaces for hours. If you have any questions about COVID-19, social distancing, or your child’s risk, feel free to give Kids’ Health a call at (978) 406-9049. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have, but for now, we wouldn’t suggest coming into the office unless absolutely necessary or recommended by one of our pediatricians. We look forward to talking with you....