Before we even heard of the coronavirus, the term ‘social distancing’ might have been just another unfamiliar phrase with a vague meaning to it.
Since the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak was declared a pandemic at the start of this year, however, social distancing has become the new buzz phrase. In fact, it is one of the key things we should be doing to stop the spread of the virus.
It took some time for us as adults to truly get our heads around social distancing and why we need to make it a part of our daily routine. So then how do we explain social distancing to our children, who can’t seem to understand why they can no longer roam around freely or play with their friends like they used to?
Explaining Social Distancing to Kids
At such a young age, it is natural for children to crave closeness and affection in their daily interactions. Since social distancing has become the new normal until the risk of contracting Covid-19 is under control, it is important to talk to your kids about what it is and why we are doing it.
To start off, you might want to try using alternative terms such as “physical distancing” instead. This will bring across the point that while we cannot be in close contact with our loved ones, it is still important to remain social and stay in touch.
When explaining the need for “physical distancing”, start with a general discussion on germs. For example:
While germs are so tiny that we cannot see them with our eyes, they can make us sick if they enter our bodies. And there are so many ways for them to do this – when we breathe them in or when we touch our nose, mouth or eyes with unwashed hands that might have handled items and surfaces that had not been cleaned earlier on. And this is why it is important to wash our hands frequently!
Along the way, your child might have questions to ask such as, “So how do we know if someone has germs or who to avoid?”
Do keep an open mind and try your best to address the questions in a caring and supportive way. You can explain to your child that sometimes, it’s hard to tell if a person has germs that make others sick, especially if they do not show any signs of being ill. That’s one reason why we’re all practicing “physical distancing” during this pandemic, and why doctors and scientists have advised us to stay away from most of the people in our lives to minimise the spread of germs via touching or coughing.
To keep the conversation on social distancing light and positive, you might want to tap on resources and materials that explain the situation through fun illustrations and age-appropriate narratives, such as the following videos that some of our preschool teachers have used during lessons.
Social Distancing: Tips for Parents to Help Their Kids Cope with Isolation Blues
Amidst the various measures put in place to keep everyone safe, having to get used to new routines and different ways of interacting with others might be a little overwhelming for your child.
Here, the teachers from our preschool in West Coast Plaza share some tips and things to look out for as you ease your little ones into our new way of life.
1. Continue to Stay Connected
As social distancing is really about physical distancing, it is important – and healthy – to stay connected with the people in your child’s life. You might not be able to see them as often as you’d like to, but there are so many other ways to stay in touch, such as text messages, video calls and phone calls.
Get your child to dedicate some time every week to catch up with his/her grandparents over video calls if you won’t be going over for dinner daily like you used to. You can also organise video calls with your friends who have kids around your child’s age – it gives a brand-new meaning to playdates for the young ones!
2. Be Flexible with Routines
With new ways of living and getting things done, there will be changes to the daily routines that you and your child have gotten used to.
As you ease your child into new routines, there will be both good times when things are smooth-sailing and days when you fall behind schedule. For example, mealtimes may get delayed or your child may decide to skip nap time altogether.
Like you, your child is trying to get used to this new normal, so be sure to leave room for some flexibility as and when there is a need. Let’s try not to sweat over the small stuff.
3. Create Opportunities to Open Up
How does your child feel about the new routine? Is he/she coping well with the new safety measures in school?
If you’ve been having regular conversations with your child about his/her day, do carry on with this to keep tabs on how he/she feels about the new normal. Encourage your child to talk about his/her worries and fears so that you can help him/her address and overcome them.
Most importantly, with the lack of physical contact with others, keep a firm watch on your child’s emotions and change in moods, and look out for possible signs of depression.
Beyond Social Distancing: How We Keep Children Safe in Our Preschools
Following the lifting of the circuit breaker and after two months of home-based learning, our teachers were happy to welcome the children back to our preschool centres.
Like everyone else, we’ve had to make changes to the daily routine by introducing various measures to keep everyone safe.
With guidelines from the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), here are some examples of our COVID-Safe ABCs to ensure Safe Access, Safe Behaviours and a Safe Classroom for all.
- Upon entry to our preschool centres, children go through health and temperature checks. Those who are unwell or show symptoms of acute respiratory infection are advised to stay home.
- We have dedicated two health check stations to minimise the chance of long queues forming during the morning drop-off period.
- Parents will need to complete the SafeEntry check-ins and check-outs for contact tracing when they fetch their kids to and from our centres.
- All our staff and children above two years old will need to have their mask or face shield on at all times.
- Staff doing health checks will be assigned to their designated stations and no cross role is permitted at any time. They will also need to have both their mask and face shield on while doing the checks.
- Our teachers will encourage good hygiene practices throughout the day. Children will be brought to wash their hands every one to two hours and reminded on good practices such as not touching their face, covering their nose/mouth with tissue paper to sneeze and discarding used tissue paper into the covered bins.
- To promote safe distancing, children will always need to keep a safe distance of 1 metre (i.e. during toileting, while queuing up for food or getting materials to play with). In centres like West Coast Plaza, our teachers have also appointed “Safe Distancing Ambassadors” who will act as a role model to remind the rest of the children (and their teachers!) to maintain a safe distance from each other at all times.
- In all our classrooms, there are clear demarcations with tape to separate the children into smaller groups – and there will be no mixing of groups or classes at any time.
- Sleeping cots are placed 1 metre apart while at some centres, there are plastic dividers installed onto the tables to minimise contact between the children while they sit together.
Check out how our preschoolers at Upper Thomson are coping with the new safety measures during their first week back in school!
With Covid-19, we might be living in quite different and unique times – but that doesn’t mean that learning has to stop for your young ones.
Written by Justina Goh