Coronavirus. When you hear the word, what does it make you think and how does it make you feel?
At first, I felt like this is no big deal. It will pass. The media is blowing this way out of proportion. Everything is fine.
But, then there were confirmed cases in Iowa. Not only Iowa, but in Johnson County, the country where we live.
Suddenly, the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, became way more real and way more scary. No longer was it just in places far away. It was now in our backyards, in our schools, and in our community.
Now we need to face the reality of what this means to our family and our community.
The NCAA tournaments are canceled. Professional sporting leagues — including the NBA, NHL, and MLB are indefinitely postponed.
Admittedly, when all of these things happened it made me more scared. Scared about what this means for those I love. What this means for our economy and what this means for our children.
As a parent, the coronavirus is yet another example of how we do not have complete control over the environment our kids are brought up in.
When my kids were younger I worried that when school started I would have less control over what they heard, what they saw, and how they viewed the world. They hear things from their peers who may have a different value system than we do.
The coronavirus, and disease in general, is something that greatly impacts my children and something I have no control over. It’s a further reminder of the difficulty in parenting.
That said, how do we help our kids through this? How do we protect them and keep them safe from illness? How do we protect them from hearing false information? How do we try to remain positive when everything seems so negative?
My husband and I used to joke that we were going to lock our kids in their rooms until they were 18 years old. While that was funny at the time, it is much more topical given our current state of affairs.
These are questions I’m asking myself as we deal with the coronavirus.
How do we keep our kids physically safe?
I feel like we cannot keep them inside all of the time. We would all go crazy. However, if we are advised to do so by government officials and medical professionals, we will. We also plan to take proper precautions by limiting their exposure to large groups of people and situations.
In addition, the best way to keep them healthy is to encourage proper handwashing —with soap and water for 20 to 30 seconds. This is something that is not new in our home. However, we are being extra vigilant and mindful of monitoring our kids’ handwashing.
I’ve read and heard that while kids are not as susceptible to the virus, it is important they not pass the virus to those who are most vulnerable.
How do we protect our kids from hearing false information?
My almost seven-year-old has a wild imagination and a sensitive heart. There are things that scare him — tornadoes, fires, illness, heights, deep water. The list goes on.
He is the one that goes to school every day and comes home with wild stories and some falsehoods from his classmates. Things are very black and white in his world. I just asked him if kids were talking about the coronavirus at school. He said yes.
At first when I asked him what they were talking about he said he did not remember. After a little more probing he started to open up about what he had heard. He shared that he is afraid of getting sick. He is afraid that it may be coming to Iowa. I clarified what I could to help put his mind at ease. I also told him he can come to us when he has questions and wants clarification for what he has heard. I am hoping by constant conversation and reminders that he can come to us, he will in fact know that he can share his fears and questions with us. I told him recently that I do not want him to panic when he hears things, but instead asks us or his teacher.
How do we remain positive when the world feels so negative?
I think we have to realize that this is a serious threat and we have to be vigilant and extra cautious about where we go and what we do. However, we have to show our kids smiles, laughter, and that the world is still good. People are good.
While things are gloomy right now, we have to believe there are brighter days ahead. We need to remind our kids and ourselves of that too. If we feel scared we need to somehow not spread that worry to our kids. We have to have faith.
While the threat remains, we have to do what is best to stop the spread of this disease. We owe this to our families, to our friends, to our neighbors, and to those we come in contact with. We have to realize the severity of the threat, but not let it be all-consuming. If we can all do our part, this virus will one day be a distant memory.
Godspeed to all of the parents and caretakers out there.