Educating Children: A Conversation about Coronavirus Disease
As public conversations around coronavirus disease (COVID-19) increase, children may worry about themselves, their family, and friends getting ill with COVID-19. Dr. Shu-Chen Jenny Yen, associate professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Studies at Cal State Fullerton, has authored a social story, Something Strange Happened in My City, explaining the coronavirus pandemic to children aged 3-8.
As doctors and scientists scramble to learn more about COVID-19, the virus has made many sick, and impacted everyone’s life in countless ways. There is uncertainty as to where and to what extent the disease may spread. However, we do know that it is contagious, that the severity can vary greatly from individual to individual, and that there are distinct precautions we can take to reduce the spread of infection. With this knowledge we must remember that children look to adults for guidance during stressful events.
Parents, family members, and educators play a crucial role in helping children make sense of what they hear in a way that is honest, accurate, and minimizes anxiety. Dr. Yen suggests that sharing age-appropriate information, reassuring safety, and learning about the many people working to fight the virus are some of the most effective ways to help young children cope.
“This can be a scary time for children and they may not understand why they need to stay indoors, or what is going on in the world,” advises Dr. Yen.
“It is extremely hard for children to understand why social distancing is happening, and why they can’t play with their friends anymore,” she added.
In her book, Dr. Yen discusses the coronavirus through a conversation between a parent and child. The discussion includes the uncertainties and dangers associated with the virus, and the various ways to minimize the risks. To assuage the child’s anxiety, the dialogue covers the strength of the immune system in children, ways to socialize online with friends and family, and all the workers and heroes who are helping and working on solutions.
The story also suggests selfless acts of generosity such as donating toys, and writing letters to adults combating the virus, thereby allowing children to become heroes in their own way.