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How To Talk To Your Kids About Coronavirus
Told By An 11 Year Old

Written exclusively for bümo by Mary Lerch, a 5th grader from Florida
and author of Twanimals & the CornYoga Virus

Social distancing, homeschooling, lack of toilet paper…we are all ready to go back to normal. I may only be 11-years-old, but I have survived 5 long weeks of quarantine with my 5 and 7-year old brothers. I have some tips to share with you to help get your family through the rest of this.

First, why is bümo having a 5th grader write a blog post? That is a good question. Well, I wrote a free children’s book (with some help from my parents) to help you and your kids talk about what’s happening with coronavirus in a silly, non-scary way (available here). This leads me to my first tip:

1. Talk to your kids about what is happening (again).

If you haven’t talked much about it with your kids, it’s not too late. If you talked a month ago when everything started, you should talk to them again about how they’re doing, what they are thinking, and what questions they have.

In the past few weeks, we kids have heard a lot about coronavirus: from the TV, from listening to adults talk, and from our friends. Our lives have been turned upside down. Every kid is going to be different, so ask questions to understand what yours may be struggling with. It could be that they are worried about getting sick – or it might be that they miss going to the park. My most important tip for talking to your kids is to make sure you do!

2. Help kids understand that they are part of a huge team fighting the Coronavirus.

After being in quarantine for over a month, many kids are frustrated that their lives aren’t the same as they used to be. A good way to help with that is by helping them connect with why we’re quarantining in the first place. Talk to your kids about the doctors, nurses, and others on the front line and what they are doing to help. Remind them that everyone is working together to help protect each other, especially older people, who are more vulnerable to it.

One thing my brothers and I did was write a message in sidewalk chalk on our driveway. We wrote in giant letters “Thank you Healthcare workers!”  

Another idea is to have your kids draw a picture of themselves doing their favorite safer-at-home activity to mail to their grandparents. Talk to them about how social distancing helps keep their grandparents safe. 

In my book, the Twanimals think of the CornYoga virus as a bad guy that they are working together to beat. Help your kids understand that we are all fighting this bad guy together.

3. Teach them what germs are and how to stop them from spreading.

The bad guy here is invisible, that makes it really hard for kids to understand. There are some great examples online of ways to show how germs spread, but a really good one is called Glitter Germs.  

Put a small amount of glitter on their hands, then have them wash their hands with just water. They will still have glitter on their hands. Then, have them wash it with soap and water to see how it removes the glitter. Next, put the glitter on your hands and touch their hands, shoulders, and hair to show them how germs spread if they don’t wash them off.

In my book, Dr. FauCheetah (like Dr. Fauci) explains how the virus is so small that you can’t see it. There’s a great picture of the CornYoga virus getting washed away by soap that I think helps kids picture how hand-washing defeats germs.

To help everyone in our family remember to wash hands, I drew in reminders on the bathroom mirrors with a dry erase marker. My brothers like to tell Alexa to set a 20-second timer so that they wash their hands for the right amount of time.  

4. Talk about creative ways to be with friends and family while following social distancing rules.

Many of the things your kids love to do have been taken away from them, like sports, school, and birthday parties. The thing my little brother Jack misses most is picking out his own candy at the store, but the thing many kids miss the most is seeing their friends and family. 

One thing that’s been helping me cope with not seeing my friends as much is bike rides. With safer-at-home guidelines relaxing, a bike ride is a great way to spend time together from a distance. My friends and I like to bike to the park and have picnics 6-feet apart. We even bring a tape measurer. 

Zoom calls are another thing helping us interact with friends and family while following social distancing rules. I have Zoom calls with my soccer team so we can check in with each other. My team and I play games on Zoom, like Pictionary and scavenger hunts. We did a Zoom call with my grandparents, aunts, and uncles and played a game called blank slate.  

I hope some of these tips and the book I wrote help you and your kids have an easier time getting through this. We are all in this together!

Mary Lerch is a 5th grader at Curtis Fundamental Elementary School in Belleair, FL. You can get her free eBook, Twanimals & the CornYoga Virus here.  She also has a kickstarter where you can get printed copies of her books or donate copies of the books to a Children’s Literacy Program. She’s proud that her kickstarter has already gotten 200 copies donated!

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