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Experts: Help kids understand their part in COVID-19 life 

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Join Dr. Christina Johns, Sr. Medical Advisor for PM Pediatrics, and Dr. Lawrence Ferber, Director of Behavioral Health Central Intake Services Catholic Health Services, as they address concerns from parents who say their children ignore pandemic advice. Moderated by Newsday Associate Editor Joye Brown.

How can you help your children deal with the realities of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic?

One of the simplest starting points, said experts participating Tuesday in a Newsday Live webinar, is to talk it out with them.

Parents should listen to their kids and acknowledge that 2020 has been anything but easy or ordinary — but that this, too, shall pass, the experts said at the webinar, titled "Help! My Kid Doesn't Care About COVID-19."

"How bad is it? How bad could it be? Will it get better?" said panelist Dr. Lawrence Ferber, director of Behavioral Health Central Intake Services for Catholic Health Services.

The answers, he said: It's bad, it could be worse, it will get better.

'We have to give our kids, ourselves, a bit of grace on this," said Dr. Christina Johns, senior medical adviser for PM Pediatrics. Parents need to remember that "adolescence can be very tricky. … It can be difficult to convey what to them may be a very abstract risk."

And that's true for children who appear not to care enough about the basics of pandemic life, the experts said — as well as for those who've taken on too heavy a burden during what's been an incredibly trying year.

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For young children or those who think the idea of a worldwide pandemic is overblown, the panelists suggested going back to basics: stressing good hygiene, the need to wear a mask and to practice social distancing. While those kids might not think the risk of infection will affect them, the experts said children need to know it could very well impact those around them — parents, grandparents, vulnerable relatives and friends — and so they need to do their part to make sure those they care about remain safe.

Kids need to understand the decision is theirs: They can make a choice to do something good and beneficial instead of making choices that might cause harm, the experts said.

And for those children who have taken the burdens of the pandemic to heart?

"Try to identify things that are under our control," Johns said. "Understand no one can completely control this situation."

It's important they know that as long as they are making good decisions, anything negative that might happen is out of their hands.

One of the trickiest tightrope walks during the pandemic, the experts said, is making kids of all ages understand this won't last forever. Although they've missed out on a lot of day-to-day living as they knew it — school, interaction with family and friends, travel, hobbies and sports — some form of life as we knew it will return.

"It's probably too early to talk about how we transition back to normal," Ferber said. "I don't think anyone has that answer."

But, he said, "Help them understand we're all in this together. We're all in this together. It's not easy."

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