Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date.
Watch the child/children for any signs of COVID-19 illness (CDC, 2020h). COVID-19 can look different in different people. Being sick with COVID-19 would be a little bit like having the flu for many people. People can get a fever, cough, or have a hard time taking deep breaths. Most people who have gotten COVID-19 have not gotten sick. Only a small group of people who get it have had more serious problems. If the child does get sick, it does not mean he/she has COVID-19. People can get sick from all kinds of germs. What is important to remember is that if the child does get sick, the adults at home will seek appropriate healthcare.
Take steps to protect children and others (CDC, 2020h). Help stop the spread of COVID-19 by doing the same things everyone should do to stay healthy. Teach children to do the same. Clean hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid people who are sick (coughing and sneezing). Put distance between children and other people outside of the home. Keep children at least 6 feet from other people. Children 2 years and older should wear a cloth face covering their nose and mouth when it is difficult to practice social distancing in public settings. This is an additional public health measure that should be taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and (not instead of) the other everyday preventive actions previously mentioned above. Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in common household areas (like tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, and sinks).
Launder items, including washable plush toys, as needed. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.
Limit time with other children (CDC, 2020h). If children meet in groups, it can put everyone at risk. Children can pass this virus onto others who may be at higher risk, including older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions.
Practice social distancing (CDC, 2020h). The key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 is to limit contact as much as possible. While school is out, children should not have in-person playdates with children from other households. If children are playing outside their own homes, they must remain 6 feet from anyone who is not in their household. Children may have supervised phone calls or video chats with their friends to help children maintain social connections while social distancing.
Clean hands often (CDC, 2020h). Ensure children practice everyday preventive behaviors, such as washing their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important if they have been in a public place. Change travel plans. Revise travel plans if non-essential travel is included.
Limit time with people at the highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (CDC, 2020h). Older adults and those with serious underlying medical conditions are at the highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19. If others in the home are at exceptionally high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, consider extra precautions to separate the child from those people. If the parent(s) cannot stay home with the child while school is out, carefully consider who might be best positioned to provide childcare. If someone at higher risk for COVID-19 will be providing care (older adults, such as a grandparent or someone with a chronic medical condition), limit the children’s contact with other people. Consider postponing visits or trips to see older family members and grandparents. Connect virtually or by writing letters and sending them via mail.
Help children learn at home (CDC, 2020h). Stay in touch with the child’s school. Many schools are offering lessons online (virtual learning). Review assignments from the school, and help the child establish a reasonable pace for completing the work. The child may need assistance turning on devices, reading instructions, and typing answers. Communicate challenges to the school. If technology or connectivity issues are faced, or the child has difficulty completing assignments, inform the school. Create a flexible schedule and routine for learning at home.
- Have consistent bedtimes and get up simultaneously, Monday through Friday.
- Structure the day for learning, free time, healthy meals and snacks, and physical activity.
- Allow flexibility in the schedule. It is okay to adapt based on the day.
Consider the needs and adjustments required for the child’s age group. The transition to being at home will be different for preschoolers, K-5, middle school, and high school students. Talk to the child about expectations and how he/she is adjusting to being at home versus at school. Consider ways the child can stay connected with their friends without spending time in person.
Look for ways to make learning fun. Have hands-on activities like puzzles, painting, drawing, and other crafts. Independent play can also be used in place of structured learning. Encourage children to build a fort from sheets or practice counting by stacking blocks. Practice handwriting and grammar by writing letters to family members. This is a great way to connect and limit face-to-face contact. Start a journal with the child to document this time and discuss the shared experience. Use audiobooks or see if the local library hosts virtual or live-streamed reading events. Ask about school meal services. Check with the school on plans to continue meal services during the school dismissal. Many schools keep school facilities open to allow families to pick up meals or provide grab-and-go meals at a central location.
The CDC has offered recommendations to help adults have conversations with children about COVID-19 and ways they can avoid getting and spreading the disease. Approximately 60% to 80% of affected patients required PICU care (Whitaker et al., 2020). However, this may change as milder cases come to attention. Children may worry about themselves, their family, and friends getting ill with COVID-19. Parents, family members, school staff, and other trusted adults can play an important role in helping children make sense of what they hear in an honest, accurate way and minimize anxiety or fear.