Parents are encourage to make kids feel like they’re part of the solution through small acts like calling friends and grandparents over FaceTime, and writing thank you notes to doctors and nurses. (Pxhere photo)

Talk to your kids about COVID-19: here’s how

B.C. child psychologist gives advice on speaking to children about ongoing health emergency

Schools are closed. Soccer practice has been cancelled.

And you have been wondering how to explain to your child why that play date probably isn’t a good idea right now without giving them nightmares for a week.

A B.C. expert in child psychology says it is a good idea to talk to your elementary school-age kids about COVID-19 if you sit down and do it thoughtfully, meaning putting phones and distractions away and taking time to explain things.

Dr. Jillian Roberts is a registered psychologist who specializes in children and families, and an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Victoria.

“First thing, say that your child is safe, that your family is safe and that everything is OK and is going to be OK,” Roberts said. “Explain that a lot of what is happening is happening to prevent a problem, and that by staying home and not going into crowds, germs can’t be shared.”

ALSO READ: B.C. coronavirus cases jump by 83, public health emergency declared

Roberts also says to also let children know that the doctors and nurses and hospitals are doing great work to make sure that anyone who does get sick gets great care, and how lucky they are to live in Canada where there is a great health system.

“Remind them we have a caring community,” she said.

The last thing she recommends is asking the kids if they think there’s something they can do, such as calling grandparents, drawing a picture that can be emailed, or writing a thank you note to doctors and nurses.

“That way they can go from feeling passive and unhelpful to being full of agency and hope because they are full of the solution.”

As for staying at home together as a family for self-isolation, Roberts recommends establishing come kind of schedule to create stability in a unique situation, with an emphasis on still keeping up education time, especially for reading and mathematics. She recommends two apps: Ooka Island and Prodigy Math, which offer educational platforms in a game format.

ALSO READ: B.C. to suspend K-12 schools due to COVID-19

Kids can also reach out to friends via Skype or FaceTime, or other online measures.

B.C. cancelled school indefinitely and declared a public health emergency Tuesday as the COVID-19 death toll in the province rose to seven, with at least 186 confirmed cases.

In her practice Roberts said she’d noticed a significant rise in anxiety due to the COVID-19, and that it is important for everyone to focus on the positives.

For example, adults can also take the time at home as an opportunity to start (or finish) any projects they’d been planning on, such as a starting a novel, finishing a renovation, or starting a quilt.

“We can all try to find a silver lining in this,” she said.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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