How Do I Manage the Coronavirus Scare as a Parent of a Child With Autism?
You can’t get away from news of the COVID-19 coronavirus. It’s everywhere, from television and radio to the schoolyard. Many parents are wondering how to talk to their kids about the virus in a way that will be reassuring and not make kids more worried than they already are.
Here are some excellent tips for tackling the coronavirus conversation:
1. Talk about it
Don’t be afraid to broach the subject with your kids. Most children will have already heard about the virus or seen people wearing face masks, so parents shouldn’t avoid talking about it. Not talking about something can actually make kids worry more.
2. Let your child lead the conversation
Take your cues from your child. Invite your child to tell you anything he/she may have heard about the coronavirus, and how he/she feels. Give ample opportunity to ask questions. You want to be prepared to answer any questions your child might have. Your goal is to avoid encouraging frightening fantasies. If you think your child’s train of thought is in the right ballpark and healthy, then go with it.
3. Our Super Kids are sensitive souls
They are little empathetic sponges so that they will pick up on the minutest of details. Deal with your anxiety. If you are worried or panicked, then your child will sense this. Leave it until you are feeling more positive before you talk to your kids about what’s happening with the coronavirus.
4. Teach by example
Take the lead by doing, rather than just saying. Children will feel more in control if they think they are actively doing something to protect themselves.
5. K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, sweetie)
Focus on what is essential and leave the other stuff. Have simple, non-negotiable rules about when everyone must wash their hands:
- when they come in from playing outside
- before they eat
- after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing
- after getting them dirty, for instance by bringing the trash out, or loading the dishwasher with dirty plates
- after using the bathroom
6. Twenty seconds is a mighty long time
Everyone needs to wash their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. Make this a fun thing to do. It takes approximately 20 seconds to sing A Spoonful of Sugar from Mary Poppins or Mamma Mia from Mamma Mia! Print out the words to one of these songs (or a different song that your kids like) and place it beside each sink in the house. Be sure to include the visual schedule below.
A Spoonful of Sugar
That…a…spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In the most delightful way!
Mamma mia, here I got again
My my, how can I resist ya?
Mamma mia, does it show again,
My my, just how much I missed you?
Yes I’ve been broken-hearted
Blue since the day we parted
Why why, did I ever let you go?
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7. If the routine stops, make a new one
If the schools or daycares shut as a precautionary measure and your children will be at home all day, stick to a routine. Get up at the same time and have the same general morning schedule. You can either go for a drive in the car or a walk to the park and back to simulate their commute to school or kindergarten, then back home for some homeschooling. My child’s school has already sent all parents a homeschool schedule in the event they close the school for a few days.
8. Watch out for signs of anxiety.
You know your Super Kids better than anyone else, so you will know what to look out for, be it increased meltdowns, repeated questioning, poor sleep, aggression, or increased stimming. The objective here is to act quickly and nip it in the bud if you can before it becomes a bigger problem.
Ruthangela Bernadette, author of “Special Kid to Super Kid”. She’s a supermum who launched her daughter from super-stuck to superhero. Her passion is to inspire and empower parents to do likewise, but that’s only her day job. Her real job is raising her eye-rolling, door slamming, make-up wearing super daughter, and of course, saving the universe before dinner time. Connect with her at RuthangelaBernadette.com. Ruthangela is a regular contributor to Autism Parenting Magazine. For more information visit website www.RuthangelaBernadette.com