For younger children only the present moment exists and the immediate effects, which can be seen or touched. Surely, more than once you have tried to explain to your children, without success, that what they do today can have positive or negative consequences in the future. For example, if you tell them to eat their vegetables to grow healthy and strong, but they don’t notice any change in their height or strength immediately, they surely won’t believe it.
Children’s logic: If you can’t see and touch it doesn’t exist We talk to children about germs that we can’t see but that make us sick if we don’t wash our hands, for example, before eating. But they would tell you that, according to their own experience, when they forgot to wash their hands nothing happened to them. That’s why, it could be complicated that your children understand and take seriously following hygiene measures, not only hand washing, also the use of mouth covers, courtesy sneeze and social distancing to contain the COVID- 19, being something they cannot see or touch.
So how do you explain kids the importance of these measures? Keep it simple: A simple explanation according to your child’s age and language is sufficient, for example: ‘This is a new disease that travels in small droplets of saliva when people talk, cough or sneeze, so it is important to use mouth covers, wash our hands and keep the distance between people. By taking care of ourselves, we are trying to prevent all people get sick at the same time’.
For the little ones, a short and empathetic but firm message may be better: ‘I know how much you like going out to play with other children in the park, and I understand that you feel sad / angry / frustrated, but we are trying to keep you and your friends healthy’. *Tip: To keep it from looking like a ban, always give them viable options so they feel that have freedom of choice. For example: ‘You can’t go to the park. Do you prefer to paint with your watercolors or do you want to see your favorite movie?’
Explain It Graphically! When talking about viruses and how to fight them to kids, the fundamental lack of interest, as we already said, in that they cannot see what it is being explained to them. There is a very simple experiment with water, pepper and soap, which you can carry out to simulate what soap does to germs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVevJ4WvXG8
Make It Fun! Creating habits don’t have to be boring. For example, to wash your hands, use soap with an attractive shape, scent, or color. While they foam, sing a song of about 20 seconds and propose a competition to see who foams the most. Make sure they don’t forget to lather on both sides of the hands, nails, between fingers and wrists. For masks, look for printed models with designs of their favorite characters. You can make them with an old t-shirt or printed pajamas.
In short, we are all living a whole new situation in which we are still adapting to other ways of relating and creating stricter cleaning methods. There is no more effective way to teach than through imitation. If children see that their parents respect social distancing and the use of masks, children are much more likely practice what you preach.