The “new normal” is a phrase that we are hearing frequently these days and explaining to children exactly what that means can be challenging. The typical day of a child has changed drastically and helping children cope with these changes is a task that all families are currently working on. Now that the cases of COVID-19 are dropping and businesses are opening up, Parents are feeling more comfortable with taking their children out of the house and resuming some normal activities. The outside world is looking very different, which means that parents must be ready to answer questions and help children transition back into some sense of normalcy.
Some aspects of life that children will need to adjust to are:
- Masks Everyone should be wearing masks when they are out in public, including children. Purchasing fun and child-friendly masks and letting the children wear them in the house before you have to go somewhere will help the children feel comfortable when they will need to wear them in public. Children may ask questions regarding the reasons for masks and why people have to wear them. Here are a few possible questions that your child may ask with some possible answers:
-Is the mask a costume? (No, sometimes people wear masks when they are sick or to help keep them safe so they won’t get sick.)
-Will I still be able to talk? (Yes. The mask covers your mouth, but you can still talk. Just like if I put my hand over my mouth, I can still talk. [demonstrate])
-Are people that wear masks scary or a “bad” person? (No. The mask covers up part of their face, but that doesn’t mean they are scary or bad. They are wearing a mask because they are sick or to keep other people from getting sick. That’s a mask to help keep everyone, including your and me safe and healthy.)
-Will I get sick? (Everybody gets sick sometimes. If you get sick, Mommy/Daddy will take care of you until you are all better. The doctors will help you, too.)
Some children with sensory processing delays might not tolerate a fabric mask. Substitutes such as clear face shields and bandannas make effective substitutes that children may tolerate better.
- Handwashing- Children should be washing their hands frequently and even more frequently when they are out in public. Teaching children to wash their hands for 30 seconds can be turned into a game by singing ABC’s or reciting their favorite nursery rhymes. Hand sanitizer can also be used as a substitute for handwashing if needed.
- Social Distancing- Not being able to see or hug family and friends can be hard for children to understand. Allowing children to draw pictures and mail them to their family and/or friends, using Facetime or Zoom to both see and hear friends and family are some good ways to keep children connected to those whom they miss.
The most important take away from this pandemic is to be very aware of your reflection. Children see, hear, and mimic your actions. If you are showing signs of stress, tension, and fear children will pick up on it. Staying calm, positive, and rationale for your children is one of the most important things a parent can do for their child during a challenging time.