How to Explain the Pandemic to Your Kids
Monica + Andy resident pediatrician, Dr. Payal Adhikari, @MommyPMD sat down (virtually!) with us to answer all your pressing questions including everything from visitor guidelines to how to explain the pandemic to your kiddos.
Tune into Monica + Andy’s Instagram live story every Monday at 12pm CST as Dr. Payal Adhikari will be back to answer your questions live and share her perspective on COVID-19 updates.
*Recorded via IGTV on April 13, 2020. Please note facts and recommendations are evolving daily.
One Fun Thing
My mom sent me a video of a Scottish family who created a pretend restaurant at home for their kids, with mom and dad acting as the hosts and chefs. I thought it was such a cute non-screen activity and a great way for kids to learn and remember what it's like to go to a restaurant.
Can I have visitors over to see my newborn?
We are recommending no visitors at all. If there are extenuating circumstances like you don’t have child care or you had a C-section or a tough delivery and you’re unable to care for your child, then of course, there are things to reconsider.
During normal times, we restrict visitors from newborns because we are trying to protect the newborns until they get their first full round of vaccines (around two months). If a newborn gets a fever of 100.4 or higher then they are automatically sent to the hospital and that’s to look for things like meningitis. The reason we’re doing it now is because we’re trying to stop the spread between people. We don’t want the intermixing of people or families and households. It's about social distancing and protecting the society in general.
How long do visitors need to stay away?
That’s going to be determined by how the society and the government is creating their rules. Right now, they’re still saying the end of April for full quarantine. My guess is it’s going to be extended. If the government is still saying to stay at home then that would include visitors as well.
We live in New York, can my one-year-old play in an open field?
Absolutely. Outdoor time is great. Keep social distancing and try to keep them away from other kids. Be close to them at all times to make sure you can scoop them up if you need. It's a balancing act because you don’t want to scare them or make them worried but we do need to keep everyone safe.
Is it safe to take my 15-month-old in for shots?
I would check with your doctor and see which shots are necessary. At our clinic, we do three shots at the 15-month visit that are important ones that I would say definitely come in for. I wouldn't skip this appointment unless your doctor has an alternate plan. At our clinic, we’re masking all of our adults, minimizing the people coming in and putting our patients right into a room so there’s no time spent in the waiting room.
How do you go about explaining the situation to 2- and 3-year olds?
I don’t try to unless they ask questions. I’ve been troubleshooting as problems come up and they ask a question. For instance, my brother and sister-in-law stopped by recently to drop off food and they were on the patio waving and my son, who is almost four said “why can’t they come in?” I said there are a lot of germs in the world right now and we don’t want to spread them so we are trying to keep ourselves separate right now. For 2-and 3-year-olds, the most important thing is not to scare them or make them worry.
For older kids, it’s a different story because they’re much more aware of what's going on in the world. They are perceptive and they feel our anxiety. If you have a high-anxiety child, I would say less is more. Frame things in a positive way with things like “we’re trying to keep everyone as safe as possible or we don’t want there to be too many people in the hospital.” Put a positive spin on it so they understand the concept without creating too much angst. That can manifest itself in kiddos in a lot of different ways. Kids who are scared or anxious tend to be tougher to deal with-- more tantrums and poorer attitudes. It’s important to take care of ourselves, too. Even though what we are doing is hard; ultimately, it’s a good thing and we are doing our job.
About Dr. Payal D. Adhikari, MD
Dr. Payal is a graduate of Northwestern University (BS) and Chicago Medical School (MD). She completed her pediatric residency at Rush Children’s Hospital, is board certified in Pediatrics and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She resides in Chicago with her husband and two little ones and is a regular digital contributor to Monica + Andy and teaches the Monica + Andy Newborn 101 class to expecting + new moms in Chicago.