PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Public health experts say kids play a big part in keeping COVID-19 under control.
Dr. Malaika Little, a Randall Children's Hospital Medical Director and Pediatric Disease Specialist, explains how parents can get kids involved and how to explain the pandemic in a way they'll understand.
“I think kids are going to be a lot of the key, not only to disease prevention, but to us feeling okay and feeling like our mental health is intact right now," said Dr. Little. "So again, turning into a positive message for kids and teaching them resilience that they’re doing an action that’s helping other people. I’m a big proponent in flipping from a fear and anxiety to direction for kids, to letting them be empowered and letting them breathe resilience based on their own actions."
Dr. Little said there are resources if their child does have anxiety over COVID-19.
"Actually a coworker of mine, Beth Torwekar, wrote an amazing book about coronavirus, specifically targeting kids," said Dr. Little. "I think having some focused resources like that can be really helpful if it’s a clear block for your kid.”
“In general, I think providing a safe place to come to with general questions and recognizing that this is a part of them understanding the world and part of growing up in a world that’s always going to be changing and unpredictable, but also has some really wonderful things about it," Dr. Little continued.
She said when it comes to teaching them to keep space between others and wear their masks, it takes a lot of practice.
"This is where I think it’s going to be challenging with us not having in person school," said Dr. Little. "That would’ve been a really nice opportunity for kids to learn consistent messaging and have consistent boundaries that are made"
"I think if you’re looking at something like a micro-school system or you’re looking at different settings and co-sharing some of the challenges of child care and education, to really have very upfront conversations about how are we going to enforce this, what are the rules going to be," continued Dr. Little. "Frankly, I think kids will respond better to that.”
As a mom herself, Dr. Little said she knows all of this is much easier said than done.
"I still go back to I think we need to be gentle with ourselves," said Dr. Little. "We need to be forgiving and understand that everyone has a slightly different situation."
"Families have different support systems, families have different risks with them," Dr. Little continued. "I think we can still have community to support us through this and recognize this isn’t a solution over a week or two, this is part of how we learn to be public health stewards.”
Dr. Little also encourages parents to think about who their support system is right now, and lean on them when they need it - whether it's a phone call or even an outside, socially distanced hangout. She says connections are also important for kids, especially as Oregon head's into wet and dark days on top of an already tricky time.
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