Siete maneras para ayudar a los niños sobrellevar la ansiedad debido al coronavirus (COVID-19)

Si la propagación continua del coronavirus (COVID-19) le causa a los adultos ansiedad, estrés e incertidumbre, considere lo difícil que debe ser para los niños.

Dependiendo de la edad y su exposición a los medios de comunicación, los niños pueden saber más de lo que los adultos piensan. Aún si no saben, los niños pueden sentir la tensión y la ansiedad de los adultos a su alrededor.

A continuación, la sicóloga pediátrica de CHOC Children’s Dra. Sabrina Stutz ofrece 7 recomendaciones que los padres pueden usar para reducir la ansiedad de sus niños acerca del COVID-19.

Responda a las preocupaciones de los niños con compasión y validación

  • Escuche con atención sus preocupaciones y averigüe de donde escucharon la información. Validar sus temores al decir lo siguiente “Puede ser miedoso cuando se presenta una enfermedad que no conocemos completamente”.
  • Corrija cualquier concepto erróneo que hayan escuchado y anímelos a continuar hacer preguntas.
  • Mantener una rutina les ofrece a los niños sensación de seguridad. Continuar con un horario usual que incluye escuela, actividades y tareas protegerá la salud mental y física.

Mantenga los hechos apropiados de acuerdo con su desarrollo

  • ​Evite tener conversaciones adultas sobre COVID-19 alrededor de los niños. Al igual, vigile cuidadosamente la exposición de sus niños a los medios de comunicación sobre el COVID-19.
  • Conteste preguntas con explicaciones breves apropiadas para su desarrollo. Por ejemplo:  puede decirle a un niño pequeño, “coronavirus es un tipo nuevo de gripe y resfriado que para estar sanos es muy importante que nos lavemos más seguido las manos y estornudemos en el codo.”
  • Recuérdeles a los niños que los doctores y otros expertos alrededor del mundo están trabajando fuertemente para parar el virus. Esto puede ayudar a que los niños entiendan que personas inteligentes y capacitadas están tomando acción.

Tranquilice a los niños otorgándoles poder

  • Decirles a los niños la manera como pueden ayudar convierte la ansiedad en una meta que se puede lograr.
  • Asegúreles a los niños que se pueden proteger a sí mismos y a otros practicando la manera apropiada de lavarse las manos, de toser y tomar otros pasos sanos.
  • Los niños también pueden incluirse en otras preparaciones familiares. Por ejemplo, si usted se está preparando para la posibilidad de tener que permanecer en casa por un tiempo, pregúntele al niño lo que desea para comer o que actividades le gustaría durante ese tiempo.

 Busque métodos para niños

  • Haga que sea divertido el aprender a lavarse las manos y tomar otras medidas preventivas. Ayude a que los niños aprendan sobre los gérmenes dándoles una loción y luego rociar “diamantina” en sus manos. Dígale que la diamantina es como los gérmenes y luego pídale al niño que trate de quitárselos con una toalla de papel o con tan solo agua. ¡No lo lograran!  Luego puede explicarle como el jabón y el agua tibia puede lavar mejor la diamantina y los gérmenes.
  • Enséñeles a los niños por cuanto tiempo se lavan las manos cantando juntos una canción de 20 a 30 segundos. Canciones de “Feliz cumpleaños” o el “ABC” son clásicas.  Usted puede ser creativo y estimar los 20 a 30 segundos de una canción que le guste a su niño.

Enfatice la bondad

  • Como siempre, ayude a enseñarle a los niños continuar siendo bondadosos con todas las personas independientemente del país de origen o su apariencia. Aunque ellos sientan temor, siempre es posible la bondad.
  • Para ayudar a que los niños realísticamente consideren el riesgo, enséñeles que la mayoría de las personas que visitan a un médico o que usan una mascarilla probablemente no tienen el virus.
  • Es importante acordarles a los niños que todos estamos haciendo lo mejor para estar sanos y que nadie es culpable si se llegan a enfermar.

Recuerde demostrar un comportamiento positivo

  • Los padres que demuestran buenas habilidades de afrontamiento pueden ayudar a darle la tranquilidad a los niños de sentirse seguros. De todas maneras, los niños aprenden de sus padres cómo reaccionar en situaciones nuevas.
  • Recuerde que los niños cometen errores. Si su niño accidentalmente no se lava las manos o no estornuda en su codo, recuérdeselo cariñosamente. No ayuda asustar a los niños por los errores con consecuencias potenciales.
  • Los adultos deben demostrar comportamientos para cuidarse a sí mismos: Mantener los horarios de las actividades y del sueño. Comer de manera sana y practicar etiqueta para lavarse las manos y toser.
  • También ayuda que los adultos limiten su atención a los medios de comunicación sobre el coronavirus (COVID-19) y más bien sigan a los recursos de confianza tales como el Centro para control de enfermedades para prevenir tanta información y la ansiedad.

Observe cambios en el comportamiento

  • Cambios en el sueño del niño, el apetito, su interés en querer estar con amigos o de salir de la casa, o maneras de buscar seguridad, al igual que lavarse en exceso las manos pueden ser señales que es necesario más ayuda.
  • Si no ayudan las técnicas básicas para la reducción del estrés tales como respiración honda, distracción o imaginería guiada, comuníquese con su médico primario para apoyo adicional.
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Teaching family values during a time of crisis

By Dr. Nicole Vincent, pediatric psychologist at CHOC Children’s

During this unique and emotional time, many parents are juggling health concerns for our families and communities, employment and financial fears, and navigating additional roles we’ve been thrust into — teacher, sports coach and activities coordinator, to name a few. This is no easy task.

Despite the struggles many of us are collectively coping with, there can be an opportunity within this global crisis. We may be having more family time and living at different pace due to stay at home orders. As some of life’s typical obligations, activities and distractions are stripped away, we have the opportunity to find more clarity on our fundamental values and what is truly important to us and to our families. In doing so, we can help our children understand and act on these values as well. We can even show children and teens how to identify and develop some of their own independent values.

Why is this important? Clarity in values can be a guiding light during both calm and stormy times; and it can enhance the meaningfulness and wisdom we gain through life experiences.

So how do children learn values? Not just through academic discussion. Learning about values takes time, and is most effective when modeled by parents, discussion of real-life examples, and through children’s own experiential learning.

Here are other tips for parents on teaching values to their children during a crisis:

  • Be generous in showing love and affection to your children. This provides a foundation for them in developing compassion, as well as for their understanding of all other values.
  • Take notice of what you are modeling through your own actions, as this will speak louder than your words.
  • Apologize when you make mistakes.
  • Talk about your values and why they are important to you. Discuss the role of your own values as you make everyday choices.
  • When you see your child showing a value you prioritize, label it and applaud your child’s actions.
  • Discuss examples of values and choices from the news or from your own day.
  • Help your child identify important values from their own life experience and challenging situations they face. Encourage your child to reflect on and talk about how they made a difficult decision, weighing different factors. Help them identify the values that guided their decision.
  • Use movies, books and television shows as a springboard for discussion of the characters’ values and choices. Common Sense Media provides a helpful guide to children’s/teen’s TV shows and movies, organized by the various values, strengths and character traits that they promote.
  • Involve your children in helping others.
  • Have each family member pick one or two values that are especially important to them. Take turns talking about why they are important to that family member. Consider developing a family mission statement that incorporates the values identified by everyone. Refer back to this mission statement to help navigate challenging moments. You can even develop a family mascot that represents these values and serves as a fun and tangible reminder.

There are numerous values to consider when identifying those most important to you and your family. Some ideas include: fairness, empathy, responsibility, honesty, loyalty, leadership, playfulness, kindness, faith, caution, achievement, forgiveness, justice, humor, self-control, dependability, patience, respect, courage and more.

Below are additional examples of several values that may be of particular benefit to highlight as we all do our part as families and as a community to overcome the current health crises our country and the world is facing.

 1. Kindness and helping others

There are many ways to demonstrate these values during the current COVID-19 pandemic, and to recognize these behaviors in others. Lend a helping hand, offer to grocery shop for an elderly or medically vulnerable neighbor, and do your part to support social distancing. Children can help with chores and help a younger sibling with homework. Your family may be able to donate money or supplies to others in need.

2. Health and self-care

Both physical and emotional health and well-being are more important now than ever. Prioritize a healthy routine for all family members — parents included! Ensure plenty of sleep; time for exercise; time for leisure activities such as art projects, music and reading; time for social connection; and time for work and learning.

3. Peaceful conflict resolution

Social distancing has resulted in a lot more family time in many homes. This can be wonderful at times and can try our patience at other times. This is an opportunity  to model and help children practice staying calm and keeping a clear head in the face of disagreements and frustration. Work on effective communication strategies. Take a deep breath, engage in perspective taking, hear the situation from another viewpoint and consider others’ perspectives, and work on finding a compromise together.

4. Creativity

Point out the ways in which all family members are using creative problem-solving to adjust to our new lifestyles. For children, this means adapting to online school, finding new ways to stay connected to friends that don’t require in person contact, creating space for multiple family members to work from home, and managing on smaller family budgets.

5. Curiosity and learning

Find interesting new books to read online and take advantage of the many online learning and enrichment programs available. Many of these resources are free during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s a list of educational and fun resources that are free during this time. Support your child in identifying an area of interest and encourage them to research it over the next few weeks. You can help them in finding videos, books and articles that give more information about this this topic. Or, help them research and learn a new skill like sewing, cooking, .art, science or music, for example. They can even give a presentation to the family about their new area of knowledge.

6. Perseverance and resilience

Focus on the things we can control in a time a great uncertainty. Emphasize how getting through a difficult time can build strength, wisdom and the resilience to manage other challenges that life may bring. Learn more about teaching your child resilience during COVID-19.

 7. Teamwork

This may be a time when you are able to help your children learn new responsibilities around the home to help the family. Praise them for helping parents cook meals, cleaning up or helping a younger sibling.

8. Gratitude and appreciation

Model and teach these values to your children in challenging moments. Help them return focus on the positives. Remind them of the joy and satisfaction that can be found in the small moments— like playing with siblings, creating a new art project, learning a new skill, cuddling with a favorite pet, enjoying a cozy spot in their home, reading a great book and the presence of loved ones. Express appreciation for all the essential workers who are helping keep our communities running, despite the ways in which this may increase their own risk of becoming ill.

 9. Flexibility

Many of us have had to shift gears and change short- and longer-term plans abruptly amid the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting social distancing guidelines. Our children and teens are also facing major changes to the plans they had laid out for the coming months. High school students are facing the prospect of missing prom, graduation ceremonies and other important rituals and rites of passage. Younger children are missing sports events, school classes, birthday parties, playdates, family gatherings, academic competitions, and many other events both large and small. In the face of these disappointments, help your child acknowledge their losses and praise their ability to embrace new ways to learn, connect with friends and family, and celebrate important milestones. This flexibility will be a tremendous strength when facing future disappointments when life doesn’t follow our best laid plans. Learn more about how to talk to kids about disappointment during COVID-19.

 10. Mindfulness

Work toward staying centered during stressful and uncertain times. Help your children take time to appreciate small moments. Show support for the difficult emotions our current health crises and lifestyle changes bring, and help children understand that a full life is a mix of ups and downs. Teach them that these difficult times can add to the fabric of our existence and the meaning we find in life, contributing to our wisdom and compassion for others.

11. Love and compassion

Model compassion for others and oneself. When making mistakes, accept, apologize and move forward. Be forgiving to ourselves as parents – doing what we can each day, accepting our imperfections and recognizing the good intentions in our efforts.

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How to teach kids resilience throughout COVID-19

A week’s worth of activities for parents and children to grow resilience and cope together

By Dr. Sheila Modir, pediatric psychologist at CHOC Children’s

It is normal to feel anxious or worried about what is to come during this time of uncertainty due to COVID-19. Situations like these can be stressful for everyone in a family. Now more than ever, we need to help our children navigate these difficult obstacles and adversities and build their resilience.

Resilience is our ability to thrive or bounce back after a stressful situation. The good news is that resilience can be taught. Resilient children tend to be happier, more motivated and engaged, and adopt a more positive attitude about difficult or challenging situations. As a parent, you can help promote your child’s emotional well-being by engaging them in an environment full of opportunities to learn helpful skills to becoming resilient. Resilient skills can include:

  • Emotion identification
  • Emotion regulation
  • Coping skills
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Expressing gratitude

Here’s an outline for how you can spend one week focusing on resilience-building for you and your child:

Monday: Making a schedule

Whether times are uncertain or not, all children benefit from having a routine in place. Following a schedule provides consistency, structure and predictability. When we don’t know what the world is going to throw at us next, building in some routine and predictability serves as a buffer from the outside chaos. Collaborating with your child to create a weekly family schedule could give them an appropriate level of control and influence in their world.

Here are some things to consider when you sit down with your child to create this schedule:

  • Establish nap and bedtimes to ensure that the necessary amount of sleep that a child needs is provided even if they don’t have school the next day. This routine will also ease the transition when schools do reopen.
  • Build in times for healthy snacks and meals
  • A few 15-minute intervals of fun (and silly) physical activity and stretches each day
  • Homework time
  • 30-60 minutes for the resilience-building activities listed below (Tuesday-Sunday)
  • Have each member of your family share five self-care activities they enjoy and add them to the schedule for the week. For example, doing a puzzle, reading a book, coloring, walking, digging for worms in your backyard, planting flowers or writing in your journal.

Tuesday: Emotion identification

Today is a great day for a family movie night, and what movie does a better job of describing the internal world of a child than Pixar’s “Inside Out? Consider making a family fort and gathering your favorite movie snacks. After the movie, grab some markers and paper and have your child draw what recent feelings they have experienced. What does that feeling look like? What would it say if it could talk? What does that feeling need to feel better or safe?

Another art activity is to have your child draw out the many faces of emotions, such as, what does a grumpy face look like to them? A sleepy face? A calm face? Draw up to 10 faces and write out the emotion underneath the face. Or, look through magazines and cut out various facial expressions that they see and label them. Does the person in this photo look sad? Does the person in the car look happy? We call these “Feeling Faces.” Children who can identify their emotions adjust better to challenges and are able to communicate their needs effectively.

Brainstorm as a family where to hang up these faces in an easy-to-see place, like on the refrigerator or next to the TV. Refer to your “Feeling Faces” throughout the week by setting an example like, “I am feeling sleepy today because I didn’t sleep too well last night. How are you feeling?” or “It makes me sad when you say mean things to me.”  You can have the child point to the “Feeling Face” that they are experiencing if they are not ready to verbally label it.

Wednesday: Coping skills

Today is the day to practice different ways to manage big emotions!

Deep breathing

 Deep breathing is an important coping skill for children and parents. There are several great apps and videos available online demonstrating how to practice deep breathing with your child — such as the Calm app, the Headspace app or the Virtual Hope Box app. However, there’s ways to practice these coping skills without technology. Some ideas include:

  • Practice belly breathing with your child by blowing bubbles or making a pinwheel together and watching it spin by taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly toward the pinwheel. You can also pretend your fingers are birthday candles and have your child take a deep breath to blow out the imaginary candles.
  • Sit back to back with your child and practice deep breaths. You can talk about how you are able to feel each other breathe, and then practice syncing your breaths!
  • Don’t forget to model for them sharing how you felt before and after deep breathing and asking them to do the same with their newly drawn “Feeling Faces.”

Progressive muscle relaxation

 When we get stressed, we tend to experience muscle tension. Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a great way for children and adults to manage stress and relieve muscle tension by tensing and releasing different parts of their body one by one. There are free PMR scripts online to read aloud, as well as free guided online videos. An example  PMR script is included at the end of this article. A creative way to teach children PMR is by telling them that you are making the muscles in their bodies go from hard, uncooked spaghetti into relaxed cooked noodles.  

Grounding

 (No, not the kind where someone got in trouble.) Grounding is any activity that brings your attention to the present moment. One of the best and most readily available ways to do that is to use your five senses (see, touch, hear, smell and taste). You can call it a five senses scavenger hunt! Prompts include asking your child:

  • What are five things you see in this room?
  • What are four things you feel (i.e., I feel my scrunchie around my wrist)?
  • What are three things you hear (inside or outside of the room)?
  • What are two things you smell?
  • What is one thing you taste?

Another form of grounding is mental grounding. Examples include:

  • Counting backward from 100 by intervals of 1, 2, 3, 7, etc.
  • Naming as many colors or states you can in 60 seconds, or
  • Reciting lyrics to your favorite song.

Plan throughout the day to practice this skill with each other, especially when someone is starting to feel stressed or anxious. If you are worrying about the future, then the present is where you can do something about it!

Thursday: Family coping box

Grab a shoe box and some construction paper and start building a family coping box. A coping box can include tools that different family members can utilize when feeling stressed. The family box should be located somewhere that everyone can access it easily. Decorate the outside of the box and begin identifying items you all would like to place in the box. You can even refer to your five senses and include items that feel soft, taste good or smell soothing. Here are some other ideas:

  • A soft stuffed animal
  • Word searches
  • A pleasant-smelling candle or lotion
  • A book of yoga poses
  • Chewing gum
  • Play dough
  • A list of songs that bring joy
  • Fidget toys
  • Stress balls
  • A bottle of bubbles
  • A pinwheel

You can also go online for free printable visual calming tools to include in the coping box. In addition to a family coping box, children may also like to make their own coping box and keep it in their bedroom. Encourage your child to use the coping box when they are starting to feel agitated, stressed, sad, mad or restless.

Friday: Conflict resolution and accessing social support

With many adults working remotely and children home from school, you might feel like you’re living in tight quarters right now. Under these circumstances, it is natural for disagreements and conflicts to occur. One way to manage conflict is to establish communication rules. A handout on these communication techniques is included at the end of this article.

  • First, check in with yourself and identify what you feel upset about. Are you upset about one thing that has happened or a couple of things that have piled together?
  • Bring it up to the person you are upset with and make sure to discuss one issue at a time. For example, “I am upset that I have been washing all the dishes every day.”
  • Be careful to not use degrading or derogatory language and to not raise your voice. The goal here is to have a productive and healing conversation.
  • Use “I” statements when expressing how you feel so you are taking responsibility for your feeling. For example, say “I feel hurt when…” or “I felt disappointed when…” instead of saying “You made me mad…”
  • Be mindful of not interrupting each other. You can set a one-minute timer to let everyone have their time to speak.
  • Take a timeout when things start getting heated. Identify a length of time you need a break for, so the other person knows you are planning on returning to the conversation. For example, “I am feeling overwhelmed right now and need a 15-minute break from this conversation.”
  • Remember that you are working toward a compromise or at least a shared understanding of the situation, so go into this conversation with that mindset.

Another way of teaching your child conflict resolution skills is to teach them when and how to ask for help. Feeling connection is very important during this time. Children are now isolated away from people who they might have normally confided in — whether it’s friends, other family members or their teachers. How can parents help their children know when to ask them or their siblings for help? Starting a conversation and making a family helping plan together could be one way. You can have each person write out who they would go to when they are feeling mad, sad, happy or anxious. You can say they can go to anyone, and maybe there is a specific person in the family that understands a certain emotion better. They can even call or FaceTime with a specific person that isn’t in the home or talk to a pet if the dog is someone that brings comfort to them! You could also make a “Connections Calendar” and include windows of 10-15 minutes of your child’s time to connect with someone on their social support list, like a grandparent or a friend. Get creative because we may be staying inside for a while and who we can turn to for support during this time is important.

Saturday: Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a powerful tool to help us slow down, pay attention and be fully present in the moment. Sometimes this can be tough to teach to a child, so we want to make sure we manage our expectations, but there are also creative ways to help them understand helpful components of mindfulness.

The idea is that our attention is a muscle, and we want to practice strengthening it. When we choose where we want to put our attention, it gives us greater opportunity to then choose how we want to think about something. When something like COVID-19 makes our physical world a lot smaller, it can be comforting to exercise what is in our control.

  • Sit on the floor facing your child. You can sit on a cushion or pillow. You can use a bell or a singing bowl (there are free ones online) to call your child into focus and attention. Encourage your child to listen to the bell until it is no longer chiming or singing. It may only last a few seconds, but those few seconds of their complete attention is very powerful. Make it a game and have them raise their hand when they can’t hear it anymore and see who has the better hearing.
  • Make time for a mindful walk. Mindful walking around the house is a walk where you notice every step you are taking. You notice how the floor feels under your feet, how your legs feel as they move, and what noises you hear around you as you take each step slowly. Pay as much attention as you can to the experience. Remember to ask how they are feeling before and after the activity to see how and if the activity made a difference for them.
  • Eat a snack mindfully. Or, maybe just the first bite of a snack! For example, if the snack is an apple slice, have your child examine the apple as if they are an alien from outer space seeing an apple slice for the first time. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What does it smell like? Does light shine through it? Take a small bite but don’t swallow just yet. What is this bite like? Chew slowly. Take it all in. Talk about that bite afterward. What are new things they have discovered about the apple?
  • Finally, my favorite mindfulness activity is loving-kindness meditation. It is the practice of sending positive thoughts and wishes to yourself and others. It is an especially powerful meditation right now. Since we can’t be with many of the people who we love, we can send them kindness and well wishes instead. Close your eyes, imagine the person or pet you care about and say aloud or silently, “May you be safe. May you be healthy and strong. May you be happy. May you be peaceful and at ease.” These wishes can also be sent to yourself. Have your child pick four wishes they would like to send and practice saying these with them. We can also send these wishes to people all over the world who we don’t know, but who are also experiencing the impact of COVID-19. Science has shown that the power of thought can change how we feel and lead to changes in those around us, so if we engage in positive thinking, we can find ourselves and others around us in a positive mood!

Sunday: Gratitude

To end the weekend on a good note, let’s engage in practicing gratitude for all the things we have and get to experience. Research has found that teaching gratitude to children increases their happiness, optimism and generosity. Some gratitude activities include:

  • Start a new family tradition before each meal by having family members say one new thing for which they are grateful. For example, “I am grateful that this morning Mom helped me find a YouTube video.”
  • Encourage your child to keep a gratitude journal and to write three things every day they are grateful for. At the end of the week, everyone can share their reflections.
  • Grab a few mason jars or tissue boxes and have each person decorate the outside of theirs, including their names. Use strips of paper and markers or pens and have each family member writes five positive things about everyone in your family and put it in their gratitude jar or box. Some inspiration can include empowering quotes that remind you of that person, things you are grateful for about that person, or a positive memory with them. Pull out a strip of paper from your gratitude jar/box on particularly tough days when you need some extra encouragement.
  • Pick out or create your own empowering mantras or positive affirmations and write them down. Place them somewhere visible in the house. Practice reciting them to yourself. My personal favorites are, “This too shall pass,” “With change comes opportunity,” and “I will be OK.”

It is important to note that while you engage in all of these activities with your child, make sure to have it be a technology-free time, where cell phones and tablets are placed on silent and you are providing your child with your full attention. Listen and reflect on what your child is saying while engaged in the exercises. When your child says, “Mom, I am using the red marker to draw a red, mad face!” you can respond by saying, “You’re picking the red marker to draw your mad face.” Provide praises throughout the activity because who doesn’t feel good when their positive behaviors are being noticed? You can use unlabeled praises like, “Good job!” or labeled praises like, “Good job drawing all your different faces!”

Feel free to continue to repeat elements of this weeklong schedule as many times as you want. You can advance to different “Feeling Faces,” add new items to the coping box, and practice mindfulness and gratitude daily. The reinforcement of these skills is what helps make it stick for children, so the more practice, the more we are increasing their resilience — or their capability of taking on challenging situations.

Additional resources 

Here are additional tools that I often recommend to my patients and their families.

Books that teach resilience:

  • “Bee Still: An Invitation To Meditation” by Frank J. Sileo
  • “Grow Happy” by Jon Lasser and Sage Foster-Lasser
  • “The Hugging Tree: A story About Resilience” by Jill Neimark
  • “Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day” by Jamie Lee Curtis
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What is social distancing?

To slow the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), health officials have urged the public to practice social distancing.

The Centers for Disease Control defines social distancing as avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible. The CDC also recommends remaining out of congregate settings or crowded public places where close contact with others may occur, such as shopping centers, movie theaters or stadiums.

Tips for practicing social distancing:

  • Avoid shaking hands, hugging, high-fiving or otherwise greeting with contact. Instead, use a wave or nod.
  • Avoid non-essential travel.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Contact your employer regarding work-from-home policies.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Avoid medical facilities, long-term care facilities or nursing homes unless you have a medical reason for being there.

How does social distancing help?

COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets, which can be expelled from people through coughing, sneezing or talking. Once the virus lands on a surface, it can survive for some time and potentially infect anyone who touches that surface before touching his or her eyes, nose or mouth.

Temporary closures at places where people gather — such as schools, community centers and workplaces — allow for social distancing to happen. Closing these places means people cannot gather, which creates necessary space between people. The key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 is to limit social interactions as much as possible.

Do healthy people need to practice social distancing?

People are thought to be most contagious when they are showing symptoms. Many people, including children, with COVID-19 may show only mild symptoms. Some spread, however, might be possible before people show symptoms. In these cases, they can still pass this virus onto others who may be at higher risk, including older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions.

What can I do while practicing social distancing?

The California governor’s March 19 order instructs all California residents to stay at home, except for critical infrastructure work or essential activities like going to the grocery store, pharmacy or bank. Read the full order here.

During this time, you can help protect your family from transmission through washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces often. Avoid touching your face with your hands and teach your children how to properly cough and sneeze into their elbow or a tissue.

At home, surround yourself with relaxing colors, sounds and scents. You can use this time of solitude to do something you enjoy and be creative.

It’s still a good idea to exercise and get fresh air during this time. It is important though, to maintain safe distances, ideally 6 feet, while doing so. If possible, stay in a closed yard.

Here’s a CHOC psychologist’s tips for establishing structure and routine for kids during this time. And here’s a list of activity ideas for kids during COVID-19.

Maintaining social connections

People may experience anxiety related to the disruption of their normal routine caused by COVID-19 and social distancing. Continue to reach out to friends and family using methods such as the phone, video chat, email and text.

When can I stop practicing social distancing?

The governor’s March 19 stay at home order is in effect until further notice.

This article was last updated on March 25, 2020.

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How to talk to kids about disappointment during COVID-19

By Dr. Mery Taylor, pediatric psychologist at CHOC Children’s

With schools closed and the practice of social distancing in effect, it is certainly understandable for children to feel disappointed right now about missing out on birthday parties, field trips or holidays they had been looking forward to. If your child or teen feels disappointed right now, let her express her feelings, and validate them. Share your own disappointments and how you are managing your feelings.

As a parent, it is difficult to see your child experience disappointment. As adults, we have the perspective of knowing that there will be other birthday parties, field trips and celebrations in their future. During this time, children will be most comforted by parents’ words of reassurance that you will get through these challenging times together, and that life will return to normal eventually.

Remind children why things have changed

It can be helpful to remind them about why things are different right now. Remind your child that as a community, we are coming together to “flatten the curve” and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Discuss changes in plans earlier vs. later

For most young children, it will be helpful to start to discuss changes in plans earlier than later. Start slow and return to the topic several times, each time adding a little more detail. Ask for your children’s input on how they can still honor the event though they may not be physically able to go somewhere or have in-person interactions. For example, they can create a birthday card for a friend whose party was canceled and mail it to them and call or video chat them to wish them a happy birthday.

Limit children’s exposure to the news

At this point, children are home from school and it is clear that something has drastically changed in their world. While it is important to keep very young children away from the daily news which can include death tolls and speculations, parents should be honest about what we are trying to accomplish by social distancing. Here’s an explanation of social distancing. It could be helpful to ask them what they already know, debunk misinformation, and provide additional information for better understanding and clarification.

Advice for older children

Older children and teens are likely more aware that there are some special occasions that they many never get back, such as school dances, play performances and graduations. Assure them that their school and teacher will do what they can to make it up to them.

Let them use their imagination

Have fun thinking about what makeup birthday parties, field trips and other gatherings with family and friends would look like. Let them use their imaginations on what decorations they would have, food they would eat and people they most want to see.

Celebrate special events in a creative way:

  • Host a virtual party — decorate a backdrop, make a music playlist and create a themed game.
  • Join friends for a virtual museum tour. Many museums and other attractions are offering free virtual visits during this time.
  • Help your child prepare a special meal or dessert for the holiday or special day.
  • Go into nature for a special adventure with those you live with.
  • Call your friend on their birthday and sing them “Happy Birthday.”
  • Share a virtual meal with friends and family.
  • Host a virtual game night.

Building resiliency

Although this pandemic is not the situation that we would have chosen for our kids to face, experiencing adverse events, with their parent’s support, will help kids build resiliency. They will be able to look back on this time and reflect on how they were creative in finding ways to connect with their friends online, how they found new ways to entertain themselves at home, and how they persevered over new challenges, such as attending school online.

Get more information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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