Children may feel powerless and experience anxiety and worry about what is going to happen. In this unpredictable time, it is important to stick to a schedule. When children know what is happening, they feel more stable.

At Kids’ Turn San Diego, we believe that everyone has their own reality, and that no one’s reality is the same as anyone else’s. However, the coronavirus (COVID-19) is a public health reality that is impacting every one of us in some way or another. As of right now, the reality throughout San Diego County is that schools and colleges are closed, and children of all ages will be at home.

This is a scary time for everyone! There are so many unknowns. Here is what we know:

  • COVID-19 is contagious and can spread through droplets in the air released when a sick person coughs or sneezes, and by being in contact with infected surfaces and touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
  • You can protect yourself by washing your hands for 20 seconds throughout the day and before touching your mouth, nose or eyes. Use antibacterial gel of 60% alcohol content when washing hands is not possible.
  • The CDC recommends avoiding large groups and gatherings and keeping a six-foot distance from others.
  • Schools and colleges are closed for the next few weeks, at least, and children will be home.
  • Many companies and jobs are transitioning to working remotely. So instead of going to work every day, many parents will be working from home.

Information about the coronavirus may be very scary for children. They may not understand what is happening, why they don’t get to go to school anymore, or whether they or someone they love will become sick.

Children may not know how to be a part of the solution. They may feel powerless and experience anxiety and worry about what is going to happen. This may result in your children wanting to be around you all the time or not wanting to leave your side. In this unpredictable time, it is important to stick to a schedule. When children know what is happening, they feel more stable.

The knowns above are a shared reality for each and every one of us. Our reality is that we are a community that is transitioning through this public health challenge.

But how do we explain this virus or public health challenge to our children? How do we help young ones to understand? This video makes the coronavirus easier to understand and highlights all the strategies for helping to protect yourself and our community from the spread of this virus.

There is some specific language about who could be most impacted, and the virus creature at the very end of the video may be a little scary for young children. If you are going to share this video with your children, we encourage you to watch it first. Then, after sharing it with your children, talk about it together and give your child the opportunity to say how they feel. Using “I statements” may help with the conversation. “I feel ____ after watching that video”. Depending on how the child feels, this is your starting point for the rest of the conversation. If you feel the same way, you could empathize with your child, such as “I feel the same way. What can we do together to reduce our ___?” This provides the opportunity for develop a wellness plan together.

As parents in a divorced family, this time is critical to put all your differences aside, no matter your conflict level or feelings towards each other. This public health challenge requires parents to put their children first. It is time to put all your histories and feelings aside, even if you are only able to make this commitment temporarily.

With schools closed for the next two weeks, children will be home. Children of divorced families have two homes, and most parenting plans probably do not address community health challenges and unexpected school closings. Tensions may be high and will probably escalate as parents decide how to move forward. Who will “watch” the children during the day? Will they go to a relative’s home or a friend’s house? What if one parent is healthy but required to work remotely from home and the other parent still has to work?

As parents, we plan for summers and school breaks but not for extended breaks without the option of taking children to parks or other public places. For now, as we try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the CDC recommends staying close to home to minimize risk of exposure.

It is your responsibility as a parent to protect your children, to be thoughtful and to communicate with your co-parent, regardless of how you may feel about them. Agree together to a plan that makes sense. We urge you not to argue over who will “watch” the child. Accept that if a parent is home and the other is not, this option probably makes sense for your child, as long as the parent at home is healthy.

We urge you to use your skills. Remember the ABCs of healthy communication: Actions (thoughts, feelings, beliefs) + Behaviors (how you behave, actions you take) = Choices (you get to choose the bridge between your actions and your behaviors). What path will you take? The path of “I’m angry so we’re doing it this way” or the path of “Let’s do what is right for OUR children”?

The choice is yours! We urge you to consider what your children will see or hear. Will they see and hear parents argue about childcare arrangements or how you are managing this public health challenge, or will they see and hear their parents working together and figuring things out for their children?

If you attended a program at Kids’ Turn San Diego, we encourage you to review your handbook to review the skills, strategies and techniques that may assist you during these times of potential tension and conflict.

We encourage every parent who is co-parenting a child to manage your own anxiety and fears around the coronavirus by talking with adults about your own feelings. Do you best to remain calm and answer your child’s questions. Look at the websites below to stay informed, or dial 211 on your phone with any general questions. For health-related questions or concerns, please contact your healthcare provider. At Kids’ Turn San Diego, we are monitoring this community health challenge daily and will implement changes to our programs as needed. Wash your hands often and stay healthy!

County of San Diego Epidemiology Unit – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

California Department of Public Health, Immunization Branch – COVID-19

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – COVID-19

World Health Organization – Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak