Face masksIt’s been over two months since Colorado has seen the beginning impacts of COVID-19 in our community. This means that most families have been adhering to lockdown and social distancing guidelines for 8+ weeks. In the mind of a child, two months can feel like an eternity. The world they grew up in has drastically changed, and chances are they’ve become accustomed to being home-schooled, seeing their loved ones via Zoom, and play dates, birthday parties or even the playground seem like distant memories.

Now that families and businesses in Colorado have done their part to flatten the curve, the state is starting to slowly reopen. It may feel exciting for your kids to return to “normal” life; however, it is important to clearly communicate with them that things might not be fully “normal” again for a long time. Now is the time to teach your child about staying safe and healthy in a world that’s reopening during a global pandemic. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Encourage them to keep wearing their mask

A common misconception is that masks are available to protect the person wearing it. While masks help prevent individuals from touching their face and breathing in potentially contagious germs, the main reason we wear masks is to protect other people from breathing in our germs. Kids and healthy adults are potential “carriers” of the virus and may not necessarily exhibit symptoms. Wearing a mask is a social responsibility to protect other friends and family, especially those who are high risk.
Reinforce the importance of staying six feet apart

Janel, a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Mountainland Pediatrics, reminds us that “Unfortunately, although the COVID-19 disease is known to be found in our droplets (from cough or sneeze, which usually only travel up to 6 feet way from the infected person), the infectious disease experts are still unsure how long those droplets remain in the air for transmission and therefore are not fully sure if it is also truly an “airborne disease.”

With much still unknown about the spread of COVID-19, the recommended safe distance to maintain between two people is 6 feet. A child might not know how far that is, so it might be useful to show them that distance within the safety of your home before going out in public together. You could say “Daddy is about six feet tall, so make sure you keep one Daddy away from strangers.” You could substitute “Daddy” for other objects that are about 6 feet long, such as a twin- sized mattress or the average yoga mat. Remind your child that staying far apart from people who do not live within your household helps prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

Maintain handwashing rules

Just because the state is re-opening, doesn’t mean it’s safe to fall back into your old habits. It’s important to remind your kiddos that they should keep washing their hands as often as possible, using soap and water, or hand sanitizer if there is no access to a sink. Singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice is the proper amount of time to lather, wash and dry!

Set a good example and provide reassurance

Now that Colorado is re-opening, it’s important that you, the caregiver, continue to set a good example of safety and precaution. You may feel a bit anxious to be returning to work and other public areas. However, you can still set a positive example for your kids by continuing to do what you believe will keep your family the safest. If this means continuing to avoid restaurants and limit large social gatherings, this is OK. If this means continuing to shelter in place, this is also OK! Take a moment to decide what the boundaries will be for you and family moving forward until you feel comfortable with returning to the “normal” behavior. If your kiddos express concern for their own safety, continue to provide reassurance, remind them that they are safe, and present a positive outlook on the future.

Mary Gibson, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Mountainland Pediatrics explains, “If your children express frustration that they cannot yet return to their ‘normal’ lives, let them know you understand that these changes have been challenging. Give them space to talk to you about how these changes have affected their lives and let them know you hear their concerns while reminding them that you are all doing your part to keep yourselves, your family, and the community healthy and safe.”

If you or someone you know is currently in a mental health crisis, call 1-844-493-8255 to talk to a licensed therapist or visit the Behavioral Health Urgent Care at Community Reach Center, located at 2551 W. 84th Ave in Westminster.