Parkland Press

Friday, June 5, 2020

The Family Project: Straight-talk children about Coronavirus

Friday, March 13, 2020 by CAROLE GORNEY Special to The Press in Focus

Q. My children 6, 8, 10 and 12, keep asking if we are safe from the Coronavirus. What can I do as a parent to help them feel safe without causing unnecessary panic?

The panel members agreed that one way to assure the children when they are fearful is to give them things to do that help them feel in control, like washing their hands, a recommended measure to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19).

“It is an opportunity to teach children that there are things they can control, and things they can’t control,” panelist Denise Continenza said.

“Parents can teach about eating well, getting enough sleep and taking care of our bodies,” added Continenza.

“Make sure the children are aware that they shouldn’t put their hands in their mouths or eyes,” panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo said, “or that in the cafeteria they should never touch each other’s food. Also, make sure that the schools are following through with hygiene.”

To help the parents, Mercado-Arroyo said there are books on hygiene appropriate for elementary school children.

Panelist Pam Wallace urged parents to be good role models in taking care of themselves and taking care of others: “If they are sick, they should stay home. If the children are sick, the parents should keep them home.”

In talking with the children about the Coronavirus, panelist Mike Daniels said, “It is important for the parents to acknowledge their youngsters’ curiosity, but not the fear.”

In discussing steps that can be taken to avoid getting sick, Daniels said it is important to stress that “we are all doing this together.”

Panelist Mike Ramsey said he would like to know where the youngsters are hearing about Coronavirus.

“As in all crises,” Ramsey said, “You want to limit children’s access to the media. The information is not always accurate, and there is a lot of hype. Images of people wearing masks can also be alarming.”

There are things the parents do not want their offspring to hear, panelist Chad Stefanyak said.

“We want to respond to their questions, but not introduce them to subjects discussed in the media,” said Stefanyak.

If the parents are not able to satisfy the children’s concerns, Continenza said it might be time to talk to the school counselors.

Panelist Bahar Mallah said there are many good resources for parents at:

This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Denise Continenza, extension educator; Mike Ramsey, program supervisor, Valley Youth House; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, educator and former school administrator, and Bahar Mallah, family practice therapist.

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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.

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