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Covid-19, Kids and "Social Distancing"

One of the most common questions we are getting now is how to apply “social distancing” to children.  Obviously, Governor Cooper’s recent announcement regarding public school closures is one solution; but what should you be doing now that your kids are at home?  

Coronavirus spread is possible when a person with flu-like symptoms is within 6 feet (2 meters) of someone in an enclosed space.  Most cases are transmitted in a usual fashion—either when someone who is ill coughs or sneezes directly on another person; or, more commonly, when the person coughs or sneezes onto a surface that it touched by another person.  That healthy person then touches their face and contracts the virus.  

Spread of the virus, then, can be halted by doing just a few simple things:

  1. Do not stay in a small enclosed space with people who are visibly ill  

  2. Do not touch your face without washing your hands or using 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer

  3. Do not go out in public if you have flu-like symptoms


Unfortunately, getting small children to not touch their face and/or wash their hands is often difficult.  It can be helpful to use this opportunity to emphasize the importance of those simple acts, as it is good practice in general to prevent disease spread.  It is also difficult to distinguish between patients who have the novel coronavirus and other flu-like illnesses.  If you are planning to gather in small groups to play, make sure that all children and caregivers understand that anyone with cold symptoms, with or without fever, should probably not participate.  

A simple rule of thumb for going out might be: “Is it possible for me to control what my child touches, or be able to clean their hands before they touch their face?”  If so, then that is a reasonable place to be able to go safely.  If not, then it may be a place you wish to avoid for the time-being.  The same rule should apply when your child has mild cold symptoms.  


If your child has a chronic health condition that puts them at increased risk, such as diabetes, prematurity, a compromised immune system, or congenital heart disease; it may be helpful to limit exposure to public places as much as is reasonably possible. 


With social distancing, both for children and adults, there can by psychological consequences as well.  Human beings need contact with others to feel safe and loved.  Children take their cues from their caregivers, so make sure that, just like in those airplane videos, you take care of yourself first.  If you are stressed by COVID-19, take some time to yourself to relax.  Recognize that you, your family and your friends are going to be fine as long as you take those simple precautions.  You being confident and calm will help your children feel at ease and reassured that they are well taken care of.  Make sure you take a break every now and then, sleep well, exercise, and eat healthy.  Keep open lines of communication with family and friends about things other than the current epidemic.  


Some helpful ideas for the coming weeks:

  • Limit exposure to social media alerts and television.  In this age, information is instantaneous, but that doesn’t mean it is always correct.  The last few weeks have had several well-intentioned people spreading incorrect information, so taking the time to get facts straight is worth not being the first person to know.  

  • Take time to talk with your children about the outbreak.  However, you should make sure you are well-informed first from reputable sources like the Center for Disease Control (CDC).   

  • Reassure your child or teen that they are safe, but that it is normal to be scared.  Let them know how you feel, and how you are dealing with it as well, so they know they are not alone. 

  • Try to keep up with a routine.  Create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.  You don’t need special props or locations to have fun with children!


It can be difficult sometimes to know when children are having difficulty with a crisis.  Some of the more common symptoms can include (from the CDC and AAP websites):

  • Excessive crying or irritation in younger children

  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)

  • Excessive worry or sadness

  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits

  • Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens

  • Difficulty with attention and concentration

  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past

  • Unexplained headaches or body pain


If you are concerned about any of the above, please feel free to call us for further advice.  This will be over soon, but until then, we stand ready to help in any way possible.  As always, thank you for letting us help take care of your family!

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