I said we can hug again when the coughs are all gone
The hardest has been walking by playgrounds and telling her that we can’t swing or slide because they’re "broken"
|Luke O'Neil||May 4|| 5|
It’s my birthday today but birthdays under quarantine don’t count so I’m staying the same age fuck it. You know what to do ->
The first part of today’s Hell World is about a group of Boston area restaurant workers who’ve come together to deliver meals to frontline medical personnel to take home to feed their families. In the second part Hell World finally completes its inevitable transition into a mommy blog with responses from dozens of parents who told me precisely how they’ve done their best to explain to their children why the world has suddenly changed over night.
“I’ve been feeling kind of like garbage lately, being this restaurant worker and feeling helpless,” Beth Schunke told me. When the director of operations for Hawkeye Hospitality — a group that runs five restaurants in the Boston area — had to shut all of them down for the foreseeable future she didn’t know what else to do. After listening in on a phone call her doctor partner was having at home with his team she came up with a plan to feed some of the frontline medical workers. Not at work where they’re being well fed but later on when they’re off the clock. When they’re too exhausted to cook.
She enlisted Sara Sweet Kelsey who like Beth is an old friend of mine and Boston restaurant industry family forever and a few others and they started a project called Front Line Family Meals Boston. They describe it on their website like so:
Front Line Family Meals (FLFM) provides free home-cooked dinners for our nurses, respiratory therapists and other front-line healthcare workers, who are caring for Covid-19 patients. Many are working up to 100 hours a week, stepping up to roles they never previously played and bravely dealing with uncertainty during this trying time. A lot of this is done at the expense of self care. We know that most want to spend what little time they have at home with the family, instead of cooking.
At the end of their evening shift, on their way home, each front line worker will receive an individually-packed home-cooked meal for 4 to 6 people. We will start with providing 30 family dinners a day, 3 days a week to bring home at the end of the day.
Now in their second week they’re already expanding and hoping to do around 150 meals this time out then see where it grows from there. I talked to Beth about the idea behind it and how it’s been working so far.
What was the impulse behind starting this? Well, obviously I know what the impulse was, but what was the kick in the ass that got you to try to do something?
My partner who I live with is a cardiologist, so he’s partially essential at this point. I’ve been hearing a lot of his conference calls when I was at home. That day my brother and I had donated to buy lunch for the ICU at MGH and Beth Israel hospitals. It felt really awesome. It felt like I did something. I’ve been feeling kind of garbage being this restaurant worker and feeling helpless. On one of the calls they were talking about how understaffed the nurses are, and how some nurses are working eighty to one hundred hours a week. That broke my heart. Then I thought about being a mom and having to go home… I worked restaurant hours before, and making meals is the last thing you want to do when you go home, but you have to do it. I also heard the ICU was being inundated with food deliveries, and they were really happy, but it was kind of getting in the way. I said I have an idea. Tell me if it’s crazy. What if we made food to feed these people’s families? So when they do get home after a fourteen hour day they can just pop it in the oven, not worry about it, and sit down and enjoy that time with their family.
We called a couple nurse friends of ours and they were like, Oh my god, I came home tonight, my kids were eating Lucky Charms, my husband burned a whole chicken. I’ve been eating Stouffer's… That would be amazing. I said fuck it let’s do it.
The next day I set up all the social media accounts. I called my friend Ira who’s good with websites. I called Sara and we brainstormed the operations, how to do it safely. By the end of the day we had launched the GoFundMe and socials and website.
How many people are involved and about how many meals have you made so far?
This week we did ninety six meals and we had six people cooking. Next week I have ten people cooking doing close to 150 meals.
It’s just various friends from the restaurant industry?
Yeah the first week was people who have worked with me in the past or currently. This week is more of them and friends of people already involved. We’ve created this kind of web of everyone cooking at home to do the social distance, then a delivery system where people pick up in certain areas and we drop everything off outside the hospitals so no one gets too close.
What’s morale like for restaurant people in restaurants right now? Everyone feel fucked?
I just got off the phone with my boss about the fact that we could possibly get the greenlight to open on May 18, although I don’t think we will. I think restaurants will be the last thing to open. I think the scariest part for tipped employees is that we’ll be able to open at 25% capacity. That’s scary for them and also operational teams. What are we going to do without servers or bartenders? And 25% doesn’t cover the bills. We’re not going to make enough money. And now there’s starting to be a shortage on to-go supplies and proteins. I think that even if we do get the greenlight to open we might pump the breaks on it a bit to see how things rolls out before going for it. I know a lot of restaurants are getting antsy and are reopening for takeout because a) they’re bored and b) they need to start generating some revenue. With this paycheck protection program small business loan thing the clock starts ticking as soon as it hits your bank account. So you have to start spending the money in order for it to be considered a grant and not a loan.
And you have to use it on your employees right?
For payroll, to pay vendors, and to pay rent.
What’s been the general reaction from medical people when you deliver the food?
Pure joy. Pure thanks. A lot of tears. One thing we did think of was one woman was coming in for her night shift at 7 pm, and her husband was dropping her off with the kids in the car. She got a cheese lasagna, and she came over to us, grabbed her lasagna, and put it in the car with her family to take home. To know that you’re really impacting several families so many times a week...it’s humbling.
You’re going to increase for this week, and then grow from there?
If this week goes smoothly, we’ll try to double it again for the following week, and move away from just Beth Israel and send another team to MGH or another hospital.
What would you say to other people who read this and think about wanting to do something like it?
We’ve been so fortunate with the amount of donations we’ve received [over $16,00 so far] so people don’t need to give us any money right now. Hopefully this will be over before we can spend all of it. It will still go to a good cause, the Greater Boston Food Bank, when we’re finished. But if anyone wants to help in any way, reach out to me through the website. If you know how to cook we’d be interested in talking to you.
What if people want to start something similar in their own city?
I would talk to anybody about that. My whole thing, as I said in that awful Fox 25 interview, is this could be the blueprint for people to do this in other cities. I’m not trying to toot my horn, but this is what I do, I run operations, so I figured out how to make it happen with all of these limitations. It can be easily recreated in any other city. I don’t own it. It’s just a human to human thing.
It’s a cool thing. I’m proud of you guys. I’m dying to go to a restaurant man. I’ll tell you what I don’t want to do and that’s go to a restaurant where there can only be like ten of us in there and it’s all quiet and we’ve got masks on. That’s how it will go first right and it will suck?
What’re you going to do, take you mask down every time you want to take a sip of your Manhattan?
I don’t care about children. Wait that doesn’t sound right. I don’t have any children and so because of that I spend almost no time thinking about them. But for whatever reason a question has been lingering with me lately which is: How do you explain to kids why all of a sudden everything is different for them? Do kids understand what a pandemic is? Michelle is a 3rd grade teacher and she’s on the computer with her students all the time doing a good job explaining things to them but I am usually in the other room not paying attention while that is happening because I’m at my own job which is fighting with people on Twitter and contributing to society in my own special way.
I asked a bunch of parents what it is they said to their kids specifically. I was curious mostly what language they used. Here’s what they shared. Sorry I couldn’t use them all I got too many to fit in here. Who would’ve guessed people like talking about their kids?
The hardest has been walking by playgrounds and telling her that we can’t swing or slide because they’re “broken.”
Our kid is 5 years old, in pre-school. I’d say he’s a bit more cognizant of the world around him than most, maybe because we don’t sugarcoat most things, or baby him. We basically told him that it affects mostly older people, so he wouldn’t worry too much. We explained how viruses work etc., a pretty scientific type conversations about it. My wife is a pharmacist so we have been pretty worried she’d bring it home. We had been listening to a lot of news/podcasts in the beginning but all the talking about death and dying was too much for him, so he started saying “The news is horrible! I hate the news!” One day we were sitting on the couch and he said “You know, the coronavirus isn’t so bad. Now I don’t have to go to all those terrible places with you.” I’m always dragging him to Wegmans and Home Depot and shit because my wife works thirteen hours a day. Other days when he really wants to go to Chuck E Cheese, he raises a fist and shouts “Curse you, coronavirus!” up at the sky.
I don't have a separate strategy for talking about the virus with my 10 year old daughter. I've always had a general policy that, whenever she asks me about something, however weird or horrible, I'll tell her. And if there's a situation where me withholding context would be the same as lying, I'll fill her in then, too (like explaining what a nuke is, etc.). So I've tried to warn her that people are still getting sick and that school might not be back to normal for another year. But kids are very elastic and adaptive. She mostly just doesn't seem to care.
Our daughter knows that there's a new virus and that it can kill people and that we don't understand it well enough to make a vaccine yet. We watched videos about vaccines and viruses and made it into a thing she could imagine mastery of (even if not her own mastery, some adult human's in some other place). She understands that we are under quarantine to protect the lives of others, especially older people like our grandparents and great grandparents (one of whom is in an assisted living facility up the road), and she fucking hates it, but she gets it.
She is afraid of the virus in the way that she is afraid of being hit by a car: in a rational measure, not phobic. She takes washing her hands seriously because she knows that even kids can die from it — we talked to her about that after she heard it on NPR — and she usually demurs on leaving the house even if she's gonna stay in the car, despite desperately wanting to go out and do stuff that isn't in our yard. And, again, she hates that shit and she bitches about it constantly, but she also does the smart thing, which is pretty much the best case scenario for 9/10 scenarios involving your kid.
We don't watch a ton of news these days — mostly starting the day quarantine began — so she doesn't get blasted with the non-stop hand-wringing and statistical horror porn of MSNBC or whatever-pick-your-poison. But when we do, inevitably some specific thing will get overheard and we'll address it and she's good at synthesizing all the various things she knows and keeping shit in
My policy is no matter what the question is, there is a matter-of-fact way to describe it that isn't scary, though it might be upsetting.
Basically we tell the truth about everything. Francis is 4, she's smart, she understands lots of stuff. What were we going to do tell her that we just decided to rip her out of school and dance and gymnastic? That we just did this for no reason? She had pneumonia, and what I now think was COVID-19 in February, and she had had the flu last Christmas so we told her there was a sickness that could get her and us sick like that and that we all needed to protect ourselves because we can't see it. We told her that it kills people who are already sick and a lot of nana and papas.
We have always told her that the best thing you can be in your life is a helper, so this was kind of a good setup for what's happening, that now is the time to be a helper and that the way that we help is by staying home and that by staying home we can protect not only ourselves but others. In my house we are making lasagna for people affected, so she gets to see everyday helping in action and be a part of that…
We have 6 and 4 year olds. We pretty much lay out the facts, talk about the virus, and how this one is new. We say that they are not in danger from this virus, but there are people in our community who could get very sick and that we are trying to protect them with various social distancing protocols. They do ok with this. But my 4 year old heartbreakingly told me that she misses hugging, and when the "sickness" is gone the first thing she'll do is give everyone hugs. Oof.
I told my four year old there is a sickness going around and we do not want to get the germs. Did a lot of extra attention on hand washing and “germ awareness.” She refers to it as “the sickness” and is scared and sad sometimes. It’s a lot to handle when you have limited life experience.
We say “the big sick” with our almost 3 year old. She doesn’t really get it but she relearned habits quickly. She no longer asks to go to playgrounds or stores, etc. At first she would say “I want to go somewhere!” And at first they tried to do zoom meetings for the preschool friends, and she quit. She said “I want to see the real friends.”
I have a nine year old daughter and a four year old son. Kind of unsurprisingly to me, the kids have adjusted....really well? I mean they watch too much tv now but I guess fuck it because everything is going to shit. When everything is Normal, I’m a barista, but I’ve been out of work for a couple of months. I’ve been living off of my tax return and we’re doing okay, much better than a lot of people. It’s wild because my kids and I actually have time to play. I’m not exhausted from standing for eight hours a day, and I actually have the energy to act like an evil alien queen from outer space or whatever they’ve decided they want me to be when they tackle me to the ground in the backyard. They beg to go to the beach because to them this is an early summer, but they take it relatively well when I explain why we can’t go. I’m kind of dreading going back to work. I know I can’t stay home forever because we can’t eat if I don’t make money, but I’m going to miss having this time with my kids. I don’t know how well any of us will adjust to that.
I told my kids there’s a very bad disease going around, it doesn’t hurt kids, but it’s dangerous for old people and sick people. We all have to stay inside to make sure the people who are weaker than we are don’t get sick. The kids now want to know why their friends are allowed to play together and they aren’t. It’s a mess. I’m trying not to say those people are just assholes, but the 7 year old gets it. He says they must not really care what happens to other people.
I don't know how to explain to my 2 ½ year so he can understand. I don't want to scare the shit out of him by trying. We’ve been calling masks "super hero masks" that's all we got so far.
We have a 5 and 7 year old. We told them that there is a virus going around that is very contagious. That the medical system is broken in the US and if too many people got it at once it would be hard to help everyone in the way they would need to be helped, so we are trying not to spread it around too much so less people get it at one time.
We've been very open and honest with our 4-year-old. We told him that there's a virus, and that it gets into people's bodies and makes them sick. That people can carry and pass the virus to others, even if they don't feel sick. So we stay inside a lot and wear masks when we do go out to protect ourselves and others.
He mostly gets the concept of a virus: a tiny, tiny thing that makes copies of itself in people's bodies and they feel bad because of it. It helps that he saw an episode of Story Bots on Netflix that does a good job of explaining to little kids how people get sick. So it was just building on that. I also drew a diagram/comic for him about what a virus looks like and how it makes copies of itself in cells. He probably didn't get all of that but he gets the general idea...The tougher part is the unseen emotional toll. Lately, he's been more reactive, quicker to tantrum or obstinance. I have no doubt that's because of the general disruption and that we can't go to the playground and that he hasn't had a true playdate with other kids in two months. So while the understanding seems to be there, for a kid at this age that kinda doesn't matter. The effects are felt in less concrete ways
“There are bad germs and we have to keep our distance from people even if we know them” My 3 and 5 year olds ask to read a germ book we have three times a week, and when daycare, playgrounds or trampoline parks will open. They usually answer it themselves: “When the bad germs go away.” We’ve also been talking up masks since mid March and wearing them. They refuse to try them and won't wear them for more than five seconds.
I told my 4 year old kid to stop whining because we have food and that these suburban parents who are so goddamn sad about their puke kids missing graduations and games (LOL) and proms don't know how fucking lucky they are.
We just explained to our 7 and 10 year old what a virus/germ was and how it spreads. Kids that age are pretty smart. A hell of a lot smarter than some adults when it comes to why wearing a mask makes sense right now to help stop the spread of Convid-19. They already knew about germs for school, sneezing into your arm vs hands etc.
We just told our 4 year old there’s a virus and we have to stay home so we don’t get sick and spread it. Now whenever we tell her ‘No’ on something she says “Ohhh because of the virus right.”
We haven’t gone overboard on explanation at all. The main goal has been to not freak out the kids while also not lying to them. My kids are 7 and 9. We told them there’s a virus that’s very contagious and especially dangerous for older people. We told them that while kids can get the virus, it’s not usually dangerous to kids, and that if they get it they may not even know it….Early on I overheard my mother in law trying to tell my younger kid that children can’t get it at all. I made sure to correct that right away. It was important to me that we not tell the kids facile lies.
My oldest son will be five this summer. My wife and I have been using the term "germ bugs" to explain why we stay inside, but we had to tweak the concept so that he felt like he could go out into our fenced-in backyard. That was after he yanked my 1 1/2 year old away from the open side door to "protect him from the germ bugs." In simple terms, we basically explain that we are trying to keep other people from getting sick, because I don't want him worrying about getting sick himself. We haven't mentioned anything about death, but at the same during this quarantine our cat died. So we had to explain that. It's been pretty fucked up over here.
In some ways it’s easier having a three year old who is too young to understand anything, they’re pretty adaptable and kinda just roll with it, but in other ways it’s tougher for the same reasons. They can’t really comprehend what’s going on in any kind of meaningful way. So when she asks to see her cousins, or to go to the playground, or asks why her birthday party got cancelled, we find ourselves awkwardly saying something like “there are a lot of germs around and we want to make sure no one gets sick,” which really doesn’t feel like the right way to answer that question, but somehow seems to be what we’ve landed on. But honestly she seems less perturbed by all these changes than just a bit confused, so it’s really not so bad ultimately. It’s just tough because you don’t want to turn your kid into a germaphobe or hypochondriac or some shit so it’s hard to know how to dumb down a pandemic for someone that age.
We specially told my 6 year old daughter this is something we haven’t gone through in our entire lives. It’s unfair we can’t hug gramma and papa and we think it’s completely insane, but we don’t know what else to do but to stay safe. She’s handling it great but she also told me to vote for Biden so eff her you know?
We’ve been consistent in delivering a message of safety and precaution. It seems to be working because when my neighbors have people over — yup! — they’re both ready to call the cops. They’re having nightmares, and the longer this goes on the less they buy that it’ll be OK. We have an 8 year old boy and an 11 year old girl. She is fraying at the edges. I think girls are handling it a bit different. Girls are missing their friends while boys are just playing video games and talking shit as they always would.
My niece who is 9 years old FaceTimed me the other day while she was at her friends house. I was surprised to see that she wasn’t at home. I tried to explain to her that she shouldn’t be over there because of the virus. I told her that because she lives with grandpa (my dad, mid-fifties, definitely not a healthful man) that if he were to get sick it could be really bad. She didn’t really want to listen to me which makes sense because she’s 9. My sister and dad both have had the attitude of what’s the difference between this and the flu, it’s not a big deal. My dad voted for Trump because he’s just an idiot and my sister is addicted to her phone and only reads words if it’s in a Facebook post. So I don’t think I would be able to get through to her anyway because they aren’t explaining anything to her or enforcing any kind of household rules.
I definitely worry about my dad. He’s a security guard who works on Palm Beach Island. So he’s still got his shifts like usual. My sister goes into work as well and really hasn’t seemed to limit much of their activities. Definitely no masks and all that.
My 9 and 6 year old kids more or less get the blunt truth with my wife being a nurse and all. A big part to is make sure they understand the implications we can have on others like their grandparents if we aren’t careful. That seems to hit home more than anything.
I use “the virus” as an excuse for everything I don’t want to do with with 4 1/2 year old. “Sorry, can’t let you play games on my phone right now because the virus.”
My take when my kid was younger was to always try to answer the question he was asking as simply and specifically as possible. Like, the answer to "Are we walking over dead bodies?" when we buried my grandpa was yes, not a lengthy disquisition on mourning practices and various beliefs about an afterlife. He's 13 now. My best friend is an ICU doctor and a catastrophist, so I was prepping pretty hardcore for weeks before lockdown. I explained that we were getting ready for a pandemic when he asked about all the beans and bottled water. I got serious about staying at home and social distancing while most of the people around us were still dicking around, and I had to reinforce the importance of what we were doing—and what I was asking him to do—many times because my kid is smart but he is, as I say, 13. My greatest fear was that after a couple of weeks he would say, "Fuck this noise. I'm hanging out with friends." But that hasn't happened. He is, despite being a teen, a smart consumer of media and he hates Donald Trump, which is working in our favor, since staying home, wearing masks when we have to go out, and all that is an easy way of saying "Fuck you" to Trump.
The fact that my kid fell down the stairs and broke his leg three weeks into lockdown is also working in my favor, vis a vis keeping him home.
2 years 3 months when we explained things back in March. We explained that we all have germs, but some germs can make us very sick. We explained that we don’t know whether we have germs that will make other people very sick or not, so that we were going to stay 6 big steps away from Mommom and Pops, and that when we all saw each other we would stay outside and be wearing masks. He understood all of this information and regularly talks about germs, so it has just become part of his normal life. He also understands that germs are why we aren’t going to school right now. (we were just doing a mommy and me class once a week, so although he still talks about all of his friends from school, not seeing them hasn’t been that big a deal) Our 9 month old was a little scared/curious about the masks at first, but now they are no big deal.
We’ve always chosen the most direct way to address complicated issues with my 5 and 4 year old. When a close family member died suddenly, it was “So and so died. What that means is this: He’s not going to be at Christmas or holidays or out to eat. Some people believe blah blah blah, we chose to believe he’s always in our memories.” That said, with this, it was even more direct: “People around the world are sick. And what that means is that we have to stay safe inside with our family. It’s important we wash our hands, sanitize, and stay away from people so we don’t get sick. We can’t see friends or family, but we will again. When? We don’t know.” We’ve cancelled our vacation. We have a six week old no one has met. The best we’ve been able to offer is that we’re admitting to not knowing. We don’t have all the answers. We’re on the same footing as they are in many ways. For us, we’ve always figured that kids can suss out the bullshit. Talk to them like they’re people.
We told the truth. There's a virus, no different than the flu that happens, except it's more potent and it makes people way more sick. That's all we know about it so we're being careful and hanging at home until we have time to research it.
Got a 3 year old - she knows we're at home because of "the virus," some people are getting sick, and that's why she can't see her friends and teachers. But we haven't said more than that, she hasn't asked, and honestly she seems quite happy to have Mom and Dad at home with her.
I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old and we were pretty straightforward with the 5 year old. The little one is just thrilled that we're having a family day every single day and requires no context. When this first started and we first sat down to explain things to the 5 year old we said there is a new virus that's making some people really sick, but that kids aren't getting sick, and things are going to change for a while until we know how to manage it. She said, "Oh, the coronavirus?" Now she calls these the "crazy days." And then she told a friend on FaceTime that people die from it, which her friend had not been told. Oops.
I went with the old honesty is the best policy. “There’s a virus that’s makes people sick so we need to stay home” but I do refer to trump as big dummy and that gets him into trouble at school sometime. The oldest is 6, the young one is only 2. At first it was difficult when we walked by parks and playgrounds but when I explained that he was helping people by not playing on them he’s been awesome. Kids are really honest and surprisingly want to help. Adults are a different story. Also, this has made him grow an appreciation for listening to the Ramones by ourselves in the driveway.
Talking about death is the toughest though, because of the finality of it. He wants to make sure no people die because of him and wonders why others haven’t done the same. It truly is innocence.
I have a 9 year old and a 4 year old. I'm divorced, but trading them back and forth every week since my manufacturing job is shut down. They're excited to see me more, but the younger one still doesn't fully grasp it. He wants to go to fun places, but I've explained that it's about protecting other people. I gave them a similar talk last year when my union went on strike, the idea of sacrificing to help everyone else.
I have triplets who will be 5 at the end of the month, a 3 year old, and a baby who’s about to turn 3 months. We told them that people don’t know if they have germs or not and that they could make us or other people we meet very sick. The trio is really social and they love to talk to people so it’s been a lot of reminding them to give other people space and trying to help them be more mindful of other people rather than putting it on others. There have been a lot of repeating reminders that they won’t be going back to school, that they won’t have a birthday party, and that all the places we normally frequent are closed. How germs live on things, that germs could make their grandparents sicker than they or us would get. Lots of validation of upset feelings about missing friends, teachers, and family.
I have two almost 4 year olds and a 19 month old. The 19 month old is clueless. Which is good. The 3 year olds? This has been interesting. We don’t keep much from them in general if they ask about it. We are pretty open about talking about death, emotions, etc. so, we have been telling them that we are keeping everyone safe by not going into other people’s houses and staying away, because a lot of people are sick and we are trying to keep ourselves and others healthy. I had a heartbreaking moment when we were at a park a few weeks ago. A little girl started walking towards my son. He put out his arms like “Stop!!” And I knew that he “got” it, that being near others right now isn’t safe.
But every time they talk to my parents - they tell them they miss them a lot. And they want to see them again. It’s a lot. Especially because we don’t even feel normal! And it makes us sad, too! Also talking with family members over Zoom with little kids is as big of a disaster as you can imagine. One of my twins got really upset the other week because he really wanted to tell the group something and he couldn’t get their attention. We told him he had to wait his turn, and it’s just like…not a normal way to interact when you’re that age.
We told our 3 year old that we need to stay home because of the "bad germies," a probably-failed effort to make it not so terrifying. He seems OK in general but has suddenly developed strong fears of sirens, fires, and butterflies!
We've told our 7, 6, 4, and 2 year old kids that there's a virus going around that is very dangerous for certain people, but we can all catch and transmit it. And since it's impossible to tell who has it, we have to stay away from other people as much as possible just in case. A lot of people are going to get sick but maybe fewer people will get sick if more of us stay home. So that's why school and soccer are cancelled and we can't have playdates and we are working from home instead of driving to work. Hopefully there will be a vaccine someday so that we can get it and be more confident that we aren't spreading the disease around to people that can't get protected by a vaccine.
Also this is why daddy is drinking so much by himself in the basement all hours of the day. The oldest three are bummed about missing stuff. The 2 year old is fuckin psyched that everyone's around all the time.
I told my 3 year old there’s a cough going around and we have to wear masks to keep other people safe. We’ve all (my wife, most likely her, and me) already had it but it’s really hard to explain that she’s probably ok. She is talking a ton about the germs in her mouth and how everything is closed so it’s some tough conversations.
My son is 2 1/2. I am not currently working so I’m doing the bulk of childcare while my wife works. I told him in the first month that we were going to have family time for a few months and instead of playing with his friends and cousins, he would be spending his days only with daddy, which was very exciting for him in the beginning. As the weeks have rolled on, and he’s gotten restless, and a little disturbed by everyone wearing a mask, and hearing grown ups talk about it, I’ve been giving him more information bit by bit and sort of watered down, so as not to overwhelm him all at once: eg, it’s germ season and we need to protect ourselves, there is a virus in the community and we need to protect our neighbors, and that the playgrounds are closed all spring for cleaning. The hardest part has been explaining why he can’t hug grandma or go into his cousins house when we drive by to say hi or call them on Facetime. I havent really come up with answers to those questions tbh.
I told my 4 year old everyone has a cough, and some people die (she knows this is bad), so we need to be safe. I said we can hug again when the coughs are all gone.
Younger kids (like 9 and under) are so adaptable. It wasn’t that hard to explain, just “This is how it’s going to be for a bit so we can all stay safe.” I found as long as we were giving them straight goods and not being alarmist they just rolled with it.
I said to my 7 year old, paraphrasing, "There's a virus that's like the flu but it's more contagious and more dangerous. Until scientists find a vaccine or a way to make it less dangerous, we have to stay away from people so we don't get sick or get them sick"
My 3 year old thinks every day in the past was "yesterday" and every day in the future is "Sunday" so she's been mostly oblivious.
We told them the truth at 7 and 11. They understand the germ thing since we constantly make them wash their hands anyways due to the million things they bring home. They had someone say get on the other side of the road while they walked by to them which puzzled them more.
Ours is 2 1/3 years old and we basically just told her “A lot of people are sick and we have to stay home so that the hospitals can help those people get better.” She also knows that’s why her daycare is closed and why she can’t go see her grandparents right now. When we go for walks it’s hard to thread the needle between “Be a kid and run free!” and “DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING YOU’LL GET US ALL KILLED!” I realized in week 2 I had to check myself because we went for a walk in the Back Bay and at a crosswalk she turned to me and said, “Daddy, everything is yucky?”
I mean yeah, KIND OF! Kids are way more perceptive than we realize!
Mine are 2 and 4. We tell them that people are sick and we are being good helpers by staying home and wearing masks in the future when we go out. Little kids like to help so we just stress how good they have been at helping people get better. We try to make a big deal about it and tell them how proud we are of them for helping people get better. It’s working so far. We don’t talk a ton about specifics because they are a little scared of me getting sick
Ours is is 51/2 and we’ve been largely honest. There is a virus going around, a type that is new to everyone — even doctors and scientists — and we don’t yet know why some people get really sick from it and others don’t. So to keep everyone safe, not just us, we are staying home or distancing in nature. We haven’t pushed any schoolwork during this time, talk about gratitude for what we have and togetherness and talk about the importance of being prepared. We have masks, and he is keenly aware of the 6-foot rule, and we wash hands as much as we can convince him to.
I live with my nephew and have been home schooling him throughout this. He’s six but he seems to have a pretty good idea what’s going on. My brother and his wife have been very straightforward with him about how serious this all is, but not being specific about all the people dying. He is better than some adults at keeping 6 feet apart within the apartment complex.
“We are safe and healthy because we are doing the right things.” Might have said something about not being able to trust anyone else. The 10 year old is glad the earth is getting a breather, but the 12 year old isn’t sure if he will make it to his birthday in Sept.
We have a nine year old. He gets that life is weird. We've explained why we're home and why that keeps us safe. My wife listens to NPR in the house, so he understands the death toll and the expanse of the virus. Whether he can make sense of numbers that large, I'm not sure. Hell, whether any of us can is up for debate. He misses school. He misses soccer. His life has been turned upside down. He's been stuck with his parents all day, everyday, for seven plus weeks now. As an only child, his loneliness has become apparent. Over the years, his group of stuffed animals has grown. Usually gifts from a relative's vacation. These stuffed animals slept in his bed and were affectionately called his “pets.” And for eight years, that was that. Now, in the last couple weeks, he's having conversations with the pets. The pets talk to each other. The pets have backstories. The pets have family trees (i.e. the siberian husky is the monkey's mom). He FaceTimes with friends and aunt/uncles once in a while, but it's so very clearly not enough socialization, even for an introverted nine year old.......
We haven't shied away from the reality of the situation. I mean, in terms of specific vocabulary, I think it's weird my nine year old knows and understands the word “asymptomatic.”
My kids are 7, 9, and 11 and we live with my 85 and 88 year old parents so our experience is unique…There’s a definite lack of filter here that another one might have. No kid friendly words, just the straight up harsh truth. My son who is 9 and on the autism spectrum said that the coronavirus has ruined what was shaping up to be the best year of his life. 4th grade. King of the elementary school I guess. He’s gone on a few pretty epic rants about the coronavirus where he yells things like “because of STUPID COVID 19!” My almost 12 year old has hit puberty, as if the pandemic brought on the time to be a man hormones. His voice has deepened, a little acne, a rough case of dandruff, and a slight mustache all with added depression over not being able to socialize. He’s “angry about everything” (including the fact that his dad and I have separate residences so we’re handling shared custody with a pandemic and with the added worry of the fact that we live with two elderly folks. One night, my oldest threw up and my daughter freaked the fuck out and put a bunch of clothes on and socks on her hands because she was convinced he had the coronavirus which really pissed him off. The one thing I have done is relax about a lot. I’ve given them the right to be pissed when they are and the responsibility of doing something healthyish when they’re pissed or upset. They are quirky little fuckers and are so full of emotions that it’s hard to manage some days. We’ll get through this I told them and someday they’ll look back and remember this time with Nana and Grampy as a gift.
My kids are 9 and almost 11. My husband is a pharmacist and is still working in a hospital everyday, so there are lots of talks about hygiene and hand washing and what the COVID numbers are looking like. We talk about practicing appropriate social distancing a lot. They aren't scared...they are mostly sad about school and miss their friends. We also try to focus on the benefits of this time: no more rushing around after school. The homework, karate, soccer, dinner, shower hamster wheel rush is not missed! We can actually have a leisurely dinner and —gasp— TALK!!! We get to watch Survivor and Jeopardy together and have family movie nights. We did The Goonies last night. So while this situation is anxiety inducing in some respects it has also allowed us to slow down and appreciate the time we have together.