COVID-19 testing can bring about feelings of fear or worry for kids. To help ease their stress, try a few simple tips to prepare them.
Parents should describe, in detail, what children will see and experience during the test to help prepare them.
“Share the facts with your child, but use language or experiences they can relate to and understand. For example, use nose instead of nasal,” said Dr. Scott Beichner, pediatric hospitalist and medical director at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley. “Some kids may do better if you show them pictures so they can visualize everything – from what staff members wear to the tube the swab is put in for processing – before they get there.”
Instead of telling children how to feel, listen to what they’re telling you and let them know it’s okay to feel the way they do.
“By validating their feelings it lets children know they’re not alone in their thoughts or fears,” said Dr. Beichner. “To ease worry, try reading, counting or singing together while you wait for testing to get their mind off things. Sometimes just taking deep breaths together can let your child know you’re in this together and they are safe.”
If everyone is getting a COVID-19 test, start with an adult or the child who is most relaxed to model how get it done.
“It’s a really quick test so sometimes just seeing how simple it is can be enough to ease their fears,” added Dr. Beichner. “For the worried child, sit next to him, hold hands or talk to him while the test is taking place to comfort him and keep his mind off the obvious.”
Remember that testing may have been a worrisome task for your child so recognize their effort.
“Don’t forget to recognize what your child has done and how it’s helping him and others,” said Dr. Beichner. “After testing, celebrate by listening to his favorite music, playing outside or sharing a special meal together. Taking care of yourself and others is a very grown up thing to do so make sure your little one knows how important getting tested was for all of us.”
Dr. Beichner also notes that parents should remind kids to keep up with public health measures – good hand hygiene, covering coughs or sneezes in the elbow, wearing a face covering and safe social distancing – and make sure kids get their recommended vaccinations, including the flu shot, to help keep families healthy.