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Explaining Corona virus disease (COVID-19) to children.

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I grabbed my car keys and my phone while rushing to the car. Just then a message came in: all schools were being shut down temporarily as a result of the corona virus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. As expected from children, a torrent of questions followed when I told them we wouldn’t be going to school anymore.

“Why?”… “Are you okay?”… “Is someone sick?”… “Do they have a right to do that?”… “What is Corona virus anyway?”… “Is the school bad?”… “Is the mall safe?” “Are we safe?”…

“You know what guys, let’s get back inside then you can ask all your questions. But you have to ask them one at a time.” I said.

Loni’s eyes brightened up. “Come James. I have an idea.” She tugged her brother’s hand and they ran off.

Loni tugging at James' hand and running off
Photo by Wayne Lee-Sing on Unsplash

I sat by the dining table preparing for the barrage of questions and how to explain corona virus disease (COVID-19) to my children, when they appeared with two kitchen spoons and a shoe box. James placed the shoe box on the table with an obvious sense of seriousness.

“What’s going on? What’s this for?” I asked.

“For recording.” James said.

Apparently, the box had somehow become a video camera. Children’s imaginations are just limitless!

Loni held up her spoon, which was now apparently a microphone and said, “Welcome to the daily show with James and Loni. We have a lot of questions for you. I hope you are ready.”

“Hopefully.” I muttered under my breath. But to keep their spirits up, I yelled, “Yes I am! Let’s begin. Yaay!”

“Alright!” Me first!” said four year old James. “First of all, what is this corona virus?”

“Corona virus is a small germ that can make people sick if it gets into their mouth and nose. It even has a cute name: COVID-19.”

“Wow. That’s interesting.” Loni said. “So who can get it? Or who can the virus get?”

“Anyone can get infected by Corona virus; whether young or old.”

“And what does it do to a person?” Loni continued.

Common COVID-19 syptoms: fever, cough, sorethroat, diarrhoea

“Well, just like the flu, it can cause fever, runny nose, cough and sorethroat. It can also cause watery stools and body pains but it’s usually not too terrible unless it infects elderly people or a person that was already sick from something else. For them, it can make breathing difficult.” I answered.

“So if they can’t breathe, that means they can die?” Loni asked with all the sincerity of a seven year old.

“Yes they can but with plenty of health support they can survive.”

James paused thoughtfully, digesting all I had said. Then he asked his next question. “How does someone get this infection?”

“Actually, a person gets it from someone who already has it. For example if Mr A is infected with corona virus, little droplets can come out from his mouth and nose when he coughs or sneezes…”

“What are droplets?” asked James cutting me off.

“Droplets are like little particles that can float in the air.”

“Who is Mr. A?” James asked again.

“Mr. A can be anybody. I’m just using him as an example.”

“Okay. Go on mum.” Loni urged anxiously.

“So the virus hides in the droplets from Mr. A. Then, if Miss B is standing or sitting close to Mr A when those droplets come out from his nose and mouth, she can breathe in the droplets, and get infected too.”

“Wow. That means it can spread very easily.” Loni remarked.

“Yes it can. Also, if the infected droplets gets on Mr A’s hand and he touches a switch, phone, door handle or any object at all, the virus can stay on those objects and get picked up by another Mr C when he touches those objects. If he then touches his mouth, nose or eyes, he can get infected too.” I said.

“Oh. I see. Are we going to be safe?” Loni asked, a serious look on her face.

“As long as we do what the health authorities say…”

“Who are the health authorities?” James asked.

“Can you just stop interrupting?” Loni said.

“No I can’t. I want to know.” James replied.

“If you must know, health authorities are people that are experts in health.” Loni replied impatiently.

“Who are experts?” he asked again.

“Experts are people that know a lot about their job.” I said, ending the conflict.

“So health experts are people that know a lot about health right?”

“Exactly!”

Now that he was satisfied, James asked me to go on. “So what did the experts say?”

Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least twenty seconds to prevent Corona virus (COVID-19) infection
Photo by Sandie Clarke on Unsplash

“That we should wash our hands frequently for at least twenty seconds with soap and water, or use a hand sanitizer. We must try not to touch our faces…”

“So what do I do if my face is itching?” Loni asked.

“You have to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water first then you can itch it.”

“Ok. I thought we would never be able to touch our faces again.” she smiled, obviously relieved.

“The experts also say we have to stay home as much as possible and that’s why there’s no school.”

“So we shouldn’t go anywhere?” Loni asked. “Are we going to be at home forever?”

“No. We won’t be at home forever. We’ll be able to go outside when the experts have found a way to control this Corona virus. However, we can go outside to the balcony or go for a stroll in the open fresh air as long as we avoid places where many people are. You know why?”

“Because we don’t want to get infected.” they chorused.

“Exactly!”

“So is it only the experts that can stop corona virus from infecting people?”

“No. We all can! While the experts are working on controlling corona virus, we will also play our part by staying at home and washing our hands frequently. That way, the virus won’t have any place to hide and eventually, the world will be free again. So this is our chance to be superheroes and save the world from destruction.”

James brightened up as he imagined himself flying and saving the world.

Superhero boy saving the world from Corona virus (COVID-19)

“So I’ll be able to fly.” he said.

“No dear, you won’t fly.” I said laughing. “But you’ll still be a great superhero.”

“Okay. Then I’m going to wash my hands.” James said happily.

“Me too.” Loni said.

Phew! End of discussion… at least until another set of questions come up.

Further reading on explaining corona virus disease to children.

How teachers can talk to children about corona virus disease.

COVID-19 explained for older kids

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