Managing My Kids' Fears As Schools Close, Coronavirus Spreads
I honestly thought the kids would be thrilled. No school for two weeks and it’s not even vacation!
But my 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son have not been immune to the recent talk — everywhere — about coronavirus.
They both immediately started crying. Real tears.
At first, I wasn’t sure whether they were joking, but I quickly realized reality had hit them. School closing made the virus more real. Closer to home, literally.
I live in Cherokee County, which as of Friday, March 13 has two confirmed COVID-19 cases. Mine is the county where a 30-year-old war veteran and Waffle House employee volunteered to be the first patient in isolation at Hard Labor Creek State Park. He did so to protect an infant living in his home, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The hospital where my children were born — WellStar Kennestone Hospital — is the location of the first death from this new disease.
My babies have not escaped the anxiety underlying every joke about stocking up (we bought a few extras but haven’t hoarded anything we wouldn’t need for quarantine).
I smiled every time I said, “Don’t eat that! It’s for the apocalypse!” But I knew fear oozed under every wisecrack.
And when my daughter visited the school nurse twice in one day last week (or was that earlier this week?), I calmed the nervous healthcare provider by assuring her no one at home was “sick.” Because she asked.
“I’m a journalist,” I told the elementary school nurse who is undoubtedly underpaid (because you cannot pay enough for such an important role). “The kids have been hearing a lot of news about the coronavirus."
The fact that most of us are now anticipating two weeks if not more of homeschooling and working from home means much more stress. In that moment, Thursday night just before time to brush teeth and snuggle under weighted blankets, those generalized anxieties became tacit.
This coronavirus thing is real.
An evening later and I can’t remember the exact words they said breathlessly between tears. I just decided in that moment to stop the jokes and reassure them as much as I could.
“We don’t know what is going to happen in the next few weeks, but know that mommy and daddy love you,” I said as I hugged them both tightly. “We will always protect you.”
As a parent, I know not everything I do will be reassuring and I don’t want to ever fail my children by making promises I can’t keep. But my babies know I’m going to do my best to inform them, teach them to think critically and be kind to others.
Be kind and be grateful. We are far more fortunate than many. We have a home big enough to give each other the space we need and come together for family movies and popcorn.
I spent the day working and my son spent two hours in his room after inappropriately expressing his anger. (I don’t know where he ever heard the F-word). But I made sure not to joke about the virus and to shield them from the conversations and news bursting all around us.
When President Donald Trump spoke to the nation, I listened with headphones on.
My family is dedicated to helping others and living by example. My husband and I celebrate 11 years married on Saturday, and my father turned 73 years old Friday.
We’re all going out to a local restaurant to celebrate and give our server a generous tip. Because we want to show the kids we’re unafraid and responsible. We can and will take time off, and we won’t let uncertainty dominate our lives.
To all the parents out there working, praying there will be enough at the grocery store and hoping for the best, my best advice is to slow down. Hug the kids. Keep your anxiety to yourself and appreciate the moment.
Now, I’ve got to shut my laptop down and watch Monsters, Inc. My kids are staring at me, reminding me I said I was “almost done” 10 minutes ago.