My husband, Alberto Hazan, MD, and I are emergency physicians raising two daughters in Las Vegas. Florence is four years old, and Luisa Luna is two. We work for different groups, and we’ve both had to keep up with daily changes that occur at our hospitals and escalating levels of concern: concerns for our own safety and that of our colleagues, and concerns if there is a surge in critical patients. We’ve had discussions on what we would need to do if one of us or both of us are sick.
Our children, who also are experiencing changes around them—school closing, local playgrounds closing, and a new emphasis on cleanliness and hygiene—are adapting to changes very easily. If anything, I’ve learned from them how to be adaptive and smile through this process. Children are resilient, good natured, kind, and incredibly smart.
First, we talked about why school is closed, why the playground is closed, and why we are not getting together with our friends and family members. We’ve talked to them about germs and how they spread: “Right now there is a germ, a virus, that is very contagious, and we need to do our part to decrease the spread, so people don’t get sick.”
We ask them about what we do to stay healthy and prevent germs from spreading. We talk about properly washing our hands, and this has been fun for them. We count to 20 as we wash and often some numbers in the teens are skipped, so this can be an educational moment. Other times we sing happy birthday, or alternatively any Frozen song. My daughter has shown me how to wash my hands between each finger and on both sides; she loves to correct me when I’m not doing this properly.
They do ask us why, but then they willingly incorporate these new procedures into their daily lives. Unlike their parents and grandparents, who have never experienced something like this before, our children see this as a new normal, as an event that happens from time to time.
Our children are young enough that I don’t think they worry about our safety. At their age, I don’t want them to. They are aware that we care for sick patients at the hospital, and they take pride in that we serve in this role for our community. We’ve taught them that they are also doing their part by washing their hands, covering their sneezes, and keeping distance from others. This is how they can be community helpers, too.