5 ways to help your preschooler not be afraid of the COVID- 19 test

These days, with the quick spread of the COVID-19 virus, not only adults but also children have to do a rapid antigen test or PCR test. It is perfectly normal for children to be afraid of testing – we adults are a little afraid of it as well, aren’t we? The good news is that testing can’t necessarily be accompanied by just unpleasant feelings and fear!

Laura Daujotė, a teacher at the Eureka early childhood school in Vilnius, provides advice on how to help a child not be afraid of the COVID-19 test, based on her experience and insights from American pediatrician Jennifer Roady.

Be calm. First of all, regardless of a child’s age, staying calm is one of the most important things parents can do to reduce a child’s fear. Children almost always feel when their parents are under stress. Naturally, information about COVID-19 in the public domain can be a concern for parents but remember that testing is one way to protect the health of your family and those around you, so take some time to calm down before talking to your child about a future procedure.

Elements of fairy tale therapy. “If your child is quite sensitive, the preparation may take a little longer. But it doesn’t have to be boring!” – points out Eureka’s teacher L. Daujotė and tells how elements of fairy tale therapy can help in the whole process. “We can tell a child that a virus, which is floating around the world is being fought by astronauts! Read a fairy-tale about them, show a photo of the astronaut, discuss their outfit. “Doctors dressed in white suits can often scare the little ones, but if you introduce the doctors to a child as characters who are looking for viruses with a stick in their noses, the child will look at them as heroes rather than people to be feared.” – teacher L. Daujotė shares her advice.

Tell about the situation process. For preschoolers, knowing what to expect from a given situation helps to calm down and not react sensitively to challenges. According to pediatrician J. Roady, the child should be told what to expect before taking the test.

For example:

  • We will drive the car into the big white tent.
  • The doctor will come to the car, in white clothes with a mask and glasses, then we will open a window (you can promise to give access to press a button to the child).
  • The doctor/s will have a white stick, which put into our nose and which will a little tickle.

You can also ask the person, who is taking the sample, to tell the child about the test. You can also tell that tickling can be a little irritating to your nose and can be a little uncomfortable. Be sure to emphasize to the kids that it will only take a few seconds, and as long as the stick is in your nose, you can count up to 5 together!

Have fun! It’s no secret that one of the best ways to help your child stay focused on negative things is fun activities! Teacher L. Daujotė gives some examples of what can be done while driving to a testing point or medical clinic: “Turn on your child’s favourite song in the car and sing along! Finger games are also great for calming children. You can have your child’s favourite book, a soothing toy in the car and use them while you are waiting in line. If you forget to prepare, don’t worry – let your child press the buttons in the car, such as tilting the car wiper lever, switching the radio station, turning on the turn, and so on. Of course, let the child do all these things with adult supervision. ”

Present an “award”. When a child demonstrates a fairly strong fear, a certain reward can be promised to him. This does not mean you need to buy a new toy! For example, you can say that immediately after testing at home, you will make a healthy pizza, strawberry milkshake, or another favourite dish together. You can also promise to read a book, put a puzzle together, watch a favourite movie, or even have a family dance party at home! For the children, the most valuable time is when they spend it with their parents, so the promised “prize” will undoubtedly help the child to overcome any fear.

Thus, the increasing number of COVID-19 testing is performed on children these days can be a fun memory rather than a daunting and unpleasant procedure. “The most important thing is the involvement of parents and the ability to present the child positively.” – notes teacher L. Daujotė