Note from Isabelle Rowe: “I believe that mental health and early childhood education should go hand-in-hand. For over a decade, I have been working with young children in and out of the classroom. I am a licensed clinical social worker and the assistant director of a special-needs preschool in Maryland that specializes in helping young children who have social and emotional difficulties, including trauma. To help children, parents, families, teachers, and providers during this global crisis, I have written a children’s book to help navigate this difficult topic.”
The Coronavirus pandemic elicits so many negative feelings in all of us: fear, depression, isolation, anxiety, hopelessness, shock, anger, and grief. For many adults, it calls into question our own mortality. So, how has COVID-19 affected our children?
Children are most likely overhearing frightening commentary on the news or conversations among adults. Children are naturally curious and have a lot of questions, such as: Why is everyone sick? Why can’t I visit my friends and family? Why can’t I go to school? Why is everyone wearing masks? Will my mom, dad, or friends die? Will I die? Children’s imaginations will naturally fill in the blanks, which may cause anxiety.
“Whether their children are in kindergarten or college, parents need to reach out and talk about what is happening with COVID-19, including asking about their feelings,” Robin Gurwitch, a psychologist and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke UniversityMedical Center, told Medical Xpress.“If a child says, ‘I’m really scared’ or ‘I’m really angry,’ as an adult it’s up to us to validate that.”
During this time of uncertainty, it is important for parents and families to have a conversation with their children about COVID-19. Child development and mental health experts recommend being direct with children, while keeping conversations about COVID-19 simple. Families should try to answer any questions children might have openly and honestly. Families don’t need to tell their children everything but provide them with enough appropriate information based on their developmental age. If it feels like too much, experts recommend seeking a mental health professional. Another option for families is to use stories to explain COVID-19 to their children.
For example, “Lucy and the Coronavirus,” is a book that can help empower families to answer those complex questions and respond to their children’s feelings about COVID-19. In the book, Lucy often holds and talks to her stuffed bunny about her many fears. Lucy and her brother have many questions about COVID-19 and their new way of life. Lucy’s mother, a teacher, has a clear and direct way of answering difficult questions. She explains germs and medicine to her children. As a result, Lucy feels empowered as she takes her job of being a “Virus-Extinguisher” very seriously.
This book is written in a child-friendly way that includes fun pictures, while focusing on facts that children can understand. “Lucy and the Coronavirus,” also offers helpful suggestions for activities that can teach children how to cope with anxiety. For teachers and providers doing virtual readings, “Lucy and the Coronavirus,” is the perfect book to help explain to children why online learning is necessary.
Families and educators, let’s continue to talk about the hard stuff together! Lucy’s books are a planned series that will be available in e-book and paperback formats. Two upcoming books in the series, “Lucy and the Pandemic,” and “Lucy and the Quarantine,” will be released soon. Other books will show Lucy enjoying activities with her family during a mostly “stay-at-home” summer, which is another conversation families should have with their children.