COVID-19: How to Explain Social Distancing to Kids
We had a real tough time keeping our 3-year old girl indoor the earliest day of COVID-19 lockdown. Government and health organisation say ‘Stay at Home’ without mincing words, but my niece, Moyosore, made it clear she was having have none of that. She wanted to go play with Rianna. She wanted to take her bicycle along and ride and ride till her fill. Nothing we say or do to cajole her would make her change her mind. She was just not bothered what the trio of Dr. Chikwe, Dr Osagie and Gov. Abiodun were saying about the coronavirus pandemic. All she cared about was; playing outside with her friends. Period! Please, what is P-A-N-D-E-M-I-C in the language of a three year old? Whoever knows the translation should kindly not hold it back please. Who am I even deceiving? How is pandemic part of a 3-year old vocabulary? We have explained to her in what we thought was 3-year old language and she looked like she understood, but clearly she didn’t. Anyways, she became difficult and implacable. She wouldn’t eat anything, she wouldn’t sleep. Any attempt to play or sing her a song earned us a more fired up wail! We were left with three options; call the police to come arrest her, take her to Rianna’s house so we could have precious peace and quiet or continue placating her. Well, we did the latter, even though we desperately needed respite from her wailings. Wished it were possible to do the former though. **It sure is Challenging Getting Kids to Observe Social Distancing ** After a while, we stepped out into the compound to enjoy the fresh evening air and no sooner had we stepped out than she raced for the gate! Haha ‘Moyo, come back here!’ ‘I want to play with Rianna!’, she said while trying to open the gate which only made clanging sound as the padlock was firmly in place. I caught her and bundled her back to the house amidst her protests. The next morning, she woke up with swollen and painful left cheek. She had started running mild temperature late evening the previous day which we hoped would pass with the night only for her to wake up the next morning with pain at a side of her face, and her temperature still higher than normal. Madam dearest had got the mumps! Awww… she became uncharacteristically quiet and couldn’t eat much as swallowing food was torture. My mom knew how to treat it with homemade remedy of course. Having garnered copious experience in many childhood infections raising four of us. However, she saw an open window which was way too tempting and instructive not to explore. She told our madam dearest after she’d had relief from the pain that the reason she had to go through that experience was because coronavirus saw her attempt to bolt the previous day, and that what she had was actually ‘corollavirus’. Her eyes grew wide! She understood. ‘Ah, grandma! corollavirus! I will not go out again. OY (me), I don’t want to go to Rianna’s house again. Please make corollavirus go away’, she cried desperately. I had to muffle the laughter threatening to burst through my throat because we needed to milk the moment to the hilt! Nothing must spoil this perfect moment. Finally, we have a breakthrough! Something to get little Miss Princess to stay cute at home and watch cartoon, eat and sleep, and not grate our ear drums with irritating screeches. It worked like magic! She has not so much as go near the door since then. She didn’t even step into the compound. No cry for Rianna again. We had sweet sweet peace in the house for the first time in a long while. If it was not ‘I want to go to Rianna’, it was ‘tell Rianna to come I want to play with her’ accompanied by generous wail. We had rest finally. That mump was a blessing in disguise. A small price to pay for peace and safety. ! **Explaining Social Distancing in Kids’ Language ** It is a tedious task getting kids below 5 to understand the seriousness of this season and the need for them to keep their social distance from their friends as seen in the story above. Here are tips that can help: Try to recall the time you were successful in persuading them to do stuff they did not initially want to do. What method did you use? How did you start the conversation? Did you use had to hinge on a reward system? Anything you that worked in the past, use it. This is the time to bring out all your effective ‘war arsenal’. Embellish your story a little. When trying to explain the pandemic to them, you might need to embellish it some. While not unleashing the full demon of fear on them as that would be counterproductive, it might be necessary to make them a little afraid to keep them in line. African parents mode of making children adhere to safety precautions might come in really handy here. I remember my grandmother telling me if I sit in the door way to eat, I would not be satisfied only no matter the quantity I eat. Then I grew up a bit older to see that it was to prevent me from blocking the entrance for other people , and also to prevent dust particles from falling into my food. If she had told me the plain truth, it would have been just that; too plain to get me to obey. But I loved my food and I wanted to eat and be filled, so I refrained from sitting in the door way. If they are as annoyingly insistent as Moyosore, you might need to tell them the friends they are pining for have travelled, especially if there is no way they could know any better. I admit this might be difficult for some parents and carers to do as they might likely deem it immoral to lie to the kids, but these are desperate times and desperate times usually call for desperate measures. Really, how do you explain to below 5-year old kids that coronavirus is real in plain language? They are simply too young to understand. I’d rather a little lie that will ensure the continued safety of kids who are too young to understand the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, than have an impossible to placate baby yelling and screaming for friends all day, depriving everyone of peace and quiet. The mump Moyosore had and how we were able to capitalise on it bought us lasting peace and quiet. We will laugh over it when she grows older and can understand.