Why I’m Delaying Talking to My Daughter About Coronavirus—For Now

w: Johnathon E. Briggs

Why I’m Delaying Talking to My Daughter About Coronavirus—For Now

— March 27, 2020 —

Days after a global pandemic upended life as we know it, my inbox filled with tips from parenting websites and my daughter’s school on how to talk to children about coronavirus. They were well-meaning of course, but here’s the thing: I’m not ready to talk to my five-year-old daughter about the virus.

Don’t get me wrong. I tried, at first.

I thought my daughter might feel unease about this topsy-turvy reality we’ve entered where handshakes are shunned, schools are closed, gatherings are banned, standing six feet apart is expected, teleworking is the new office, and staying at home is no longer for leisure, but mandated by the government.

Surely, I thought, my little kindergartner, who is on the autism spectrum, must be trying to make sense of it all. So, I printed the six-page social story her learning behavior specialist shared and sat down with her at our dining room table to read a tale titled, in all caps, “WHAT IS THE CORONAVIRUS?”

The story was developmentally and age-appropriate, illustrated with clip art of thermometers, microbes, and Funko Pop-faced little girls sweating and coughing as it explained symptoms, how to stay healthy (“I can help stop the spread of germs by washing my hands with soap and water”), and why schools were closed.

The story ended on a hopeful note: “Once the coronavirus is gone, I will be able to go to my favorite places again.”

Not that we made it to the ending. I lost my daughter’s attention somewhere around the second page when she began scripting lines from her favorite cartoon, “Doc McStuffins: Toy Hospital.”

 

 

If your child is under 6 like mine, you may not want to discuss the virus with them as it may introduce unnecessary anxiety, clinical psychologist Abi Gewirtz shared in a recent New York Times article. It’s prudent advice but sooner or later, especially as our children ask questions, we’ll need to educate them about things they may find scary, even when those same things scare us right now.

My first attempt to make my daughter aware of coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, occurred on March 14, three days after the World Health Organization declared the viral outbreak—which at that time touched 114 countries and had killed more than 4,000 people—was officially a global pandemic.

I figured I’d try again when she was more attentive, but quickly decided not to take a second crack, for now. My decision boiled down to five words: let her have her childhood.

Sooner or later we’ll need to educate our children about things they may find scary, even when those same things scare us right now.

Last summer, two weeks before the start of kindergarten, I shared this observation about my daughter: “Her life is simple now, as it should be, filled with the little things that spark happiness: frilly dresses, Disney cartoons, magic wand bubbles, cuddle time, a pink bicycle with training wheels. She has no awareness of the headlines reflecting the troubled state of the world: mass shootings, white supremacist terror, trade wars, climate change, global inequality. Such concerns will inevitably creep into view as she moves through life but, for now, she’s cocooned in the bubble of childhood.”

I want my daughter to stay cocooned for just a bit longer.

As her father, I won’t always be there to protect her in this new age of COVID-19, but I can prevent anxiety from coloring her world by modeling calm in the storm, strength in the headwind, faith in the darkness.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling anxious as our family hunkers down in our split-level home in Illinois under a stay-at-home order from the governor and braces for the worst as the daily number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in America ticks upward—along with its related deaths.

In the face of uncertainty, my wife and I strive to stick to our familiar family routine, never burdening our daughter with our concerns about what may come next for our loved ones, our friends, our country. I don’t mention coronavirus in chats with my daughter, focusing instead on how she can stay healthy and keep others around her healthy by practicing good hygiene.

For now, the bubble of childhood remains mostly intact.


To be clear, my daughter knows there’s been a shift in her daily life, but it doesn’t seem to bother her much just yet. She hasn’t asked when she’ll be able to see her friends, teacher or school staff again, but I know she misses them.

Weekday mornings, she still wakes up at her regular time, brushes her teeth, gets dressed and eats breakfast. My wife does her hair and drops her off at our daycare center, which remains open to the families of healthcare workers and employees deemed “essential” by the state.

From daycare, my daughter would normally board a bus for school. These days, that bus sits idle.

On the third morning of this daycare-only routine, my daughter asked to take her backpack. When we explained that she wouldn’t need it because school is closed, she whined. I thought she was upset because “no school “meant “no friends.” But as it turns out, she didn’t want her backpack at all, just the goodies inside: small canisters of her favorite snacks.

Children are more adaptable and resilient than we often give them credit for.

Nowadays, I still pick my daughter up from daycare, and she still has her at-home autism therapy sessions during the week. That means we still engage in her favorite in-the-car ritual: singing along to the 1976 classic “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” by soul crooner Lou Rawls.

My daughter sings with such gusto that she often closes her eyes to belt out the chorus:

Late in the midnight hour, baby (you’re gonna miss my lovin’)
When it’s cold outside (you’re gonna miss my lovin’)
You’re gonna miss, you’re gonna miss my lo-o-ove

(The video below depicts a typical car ride. My daughter hits her stride at the 2:03 mark.)

The coronavirus has paused many things about modern life.

It’s nice to be reminded that the carefreeness of childhood hasn’t been canceled.

Father on,

P.S. When I’m ready to talk to my daughter, I’ll try this kid-friendly comic (screenshot below) based on a radio story from NPR education reporter Cory Turner.

 




 

1167 words

3.27.20

Johnathon E. BriggsHusband • Ausome Dad • Wingtip Shoe Enthusiast • On @GoodMenProject • #BlackDadMagic • ΑΦΑ

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About

Few may know this, but twice as many dads of newborns today are now in the 40-plus age group, compared to the 1970s. Six weeks before my 40th birthday, I became a first-time father, hence the title of this blog.

This life-changing moment made me think about my own dad, who became a father at 44. As my parenthood journey unfolded, I noticed that most of my friends had become parents earlier in life yet, here I was, changing diapers and battling sleep deprivation at (nearly) 40. I told my wife, “Parenting is definitely a young man’s game.” But is it really?

Where most of my friends were preparing for their children’s middle and high school graduations, I was mastering the art of the swaddle, perfecting the one-hand baby wipe, and learning to decipher my daughter’s gurgles and whimpers. It occurred to me that I had so much more to offer my daughter at the sure-footed age of 40 than I did at, say, 28, when I was still coming into my own.

Fatherhood@Forty: Dispatches from the Parent Hood™ is a creative outlet to share my experiences and connect with other (relatively) late-in-life dads.

Here are a few factoids about me, Johnathon Briggs, the editor behind this blog:

  • I’m a former journalist (Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune).
  • I love exploring Chicago and the Midwest with my family.
  • I remain on a constant quest to stay fit.
  • I support charities that fight HIV, uplift families affected by incarceration, and ensure African American boys graduate from college.
  • I’m a comic book geek (mostly Marvel, but a bit of DC and Image Comics).
  • I’m a child of the ‘80s, so please expect occasional references to the Golden Age of Hip-Hop.

As a reporter for daily newspapers, I had the opportunity to interview fascinating people and to test out great products and brands for my readers. I hope to do the same for you as I blog about the moments that make up this adventure called fatherhood.

Feel free to tweet (@fatherhoodforty) or email (fatherhoodforty@gmail.com) me if you’d like to collaborate or have ideas for a blog post.

Father on,

P.S. Check out The Art of Conversation podcast interview I did with Art Eddy from Life of Dad.

 


Disclaimer: Fatherhood@Forty may contain affiliate marketing links, which may result in commission on sales of products or services I write about. My editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships. This disclosure is provided in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR § 255.5: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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About

Few may know this, but twice as many dads of newborns today are now in the 40-plus age group, compared to the 1970s. Six weeks before my 40th birthday, I became a first-time father, hence the title of this blog.

This life-changing moment made me think about my own dad, who became a father at 44. As my parenthood journey unfolded, I noticed that most of my friends had become parents earlier in life yet, here I was, changing diapers and battling sleep deprivation at (nearly) 40. I told my wife, “Parenting is definitely a young man’s game.” But is it really?

Where most of my friends were preparing for their children’s middle and high school graduations, I was mastering the art of the swaddle, perfecting the one-hand baby wipe, and learning to decipher my daughter’s gurgles and whimpers. It occurred to me that I had so much more to offer my daughter at the sure-footed age of 40 than I did at, say, 28, when I was still coming into my own.

Fatherhood@Forty: Dispatches from the Parent Hood™ is a creative outlet to share my experiences and connect with other (relatively) late-in-life dads.

Here are a few factoids about me, Johnathon Briggs, the editor behind this blog:

  • I’m a former journalist (Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune).
  • I love exploring Chicago and the Midwest with my family.
  • I remain on a constant quest to stay fit.
  • I support charities that fight HIV, uplift families affected by incarceration, and ensure African American boys graduate from college.
  • I’m a comic book geek (mostly Marvel, but a bit of DC and Image Comics).
  • I’m a child of the ‘80s, so please expect occasional references to the Golden Age of Hip-Hop.

As a reporter for daily newspapers, I had the opportunity to interview fascinating people and to test out great products and brands for my readers. I hope to do the same for you as I blog about the moments that make up this adventure called fatherhood.

Feel free to tweet (@fatherhoodforty) or email (fatherhoodforty@gmail.com) me if you’d like to collaborate or have ideas for a blog post.

Father on,

P.S. Check out The Art of Conversation podcast interview I did with Art Eddy from Life of Dad.

 


Disclaimer: Fatherhood@Forty may contain affiliate marketing links, which may result in commission on sales of products or services I write about. My editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships. This disclosure is provided in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR § 255.5: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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