Little ones often struggle with personal hygiene considerations, from hand-washing to remembering to keep their hands away from their faces–not to mention avoiding sneezing or coughing on other people. In light of COVID-19, however, many parents are feeling the pressure, not only to help explain the virus to their kids, but to improve personal hygiene measures to help keep their kids safe. Try some of these strategies to teach your kids about personal hygiene during COVID-19.
1. Take a fact-based approach to sharing information with your kids.
If you’re already practising social distancing, your kids might not have their usual wealth of misinformation coming from their peers. That doesn’t mean, however, that they aren’t aware of what’s going on–and in fact, they may be picking up more than you think. Have an honest discussion about coronavirus with your kids. Share facts. Try an approach like this: ‘The coronavirus is kind of like a bad cold or the flu. Most people who get it can stay home for a few days and get better, but some people get really sick. We’re staying home and making sure we wash our hands to help protect other people and make it less likely that our family will get sick.’ Explain that washing your hands, keeping your hands away from your face, and coughing or sneezing into your arm can all help prevent you from getting sick.
While you’re sharing facts, make sure you answer whatever questions your kids have about coronavirus. Take the time to listen to them. Young minds often take snippets of adult conversations and put them back together again in unexpected ways. Make sure that what your kids are thinking is as accurate as possible–and that you’re taking steps to help them avoid fear.
2. Demonstrate washing your hands correctly.
If your kids have attended a public nursery school or school, they have probably been taught how to wash their hands. That doesn’t mean, however, that they always remember to do it correctly. During this crisis, take the time to teach your kids how to wash their hands correctly. Watch them washing their hands, then make any corrections. Remind them to wash between their fingers, on the backs of their hands, and under any jewellry they might be wearing, all while singing a popular song or jingle that’s at least twenty seconds long. Encourage kids not to rush through the task!
3. Remind your kids to practice safe coughing and sneezing.
Teach kids to cough or sneeze into their elbows, not into their hands, when possible. Even young children can be taught to cover a cough! While you’re at home together, practice–and demonstrate the same actions yourself, even if your hands are full and you’re at home. Practising the right actions yourself is one of the best ways to teach your kids about proper hygiene.
4. Talk to your kids about other safety measures you’re taking and why.
Explain why you’re wiping down your groceries or why you’re staying home. If you do need to take the kids out, especially into a public area, discuss why you need to avoid touching as many things as possible. Practice washing your hands together and changing your clothes when you get home. All these little steps add up–and explaining why you need to do those things to your kids can make it easier.
5. Try a visual demonstration, if needed.
Kids may struggle with the idea of germs, especially if no one around them ‘looks’ sick. Try going outside with a handful of glitter. Explain that the glitter is like germs: it’s easy to spread, and can spread very quickly, if you don’t pay attention. Shake your child’s hand: now your child is glittered, too. Then, have them shake a sibling’s hand or your spouse’s hand. The glitter has spread again–even though they weren’t the one who started out with it! Then, try it again–only have your kids wash their hands before shaking hands with each other. This visual demonstration can give kids a better look at how germs get passed on.
Talking to your kids about hygiene and health is always important, but it’s even more critical in the midst of a pandemic. By utilizing these strategies, you can have a more effective discussion about staying clean and safe with your kids while correcting any misinformation they may have picked up along the way.