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The COVID-19 crisis through the eyes of children

When interviewed about what the coronavirus is, 6-year-old Elijah McLeod responded: "When people eat bats." Children open up in candid interviews about their fears.

"(It's) like the zombie apocalypse almost," Aubrie Killingsworth, 10, said describing this unfamiliar world we are now all living in. "Cause someone touches you, if the zombie touches you, you turn into a zombie basically. Same thing with coronavirus."

As adults, the COVID-19 crisis is difficult to grasp and handle. Here's a snapshot of how children view the virus and its effects on their everyday lives. 

When asked what the coronavirus is Dominic Martin, a second-grader at Discovery Oaks Elementary said: "The coronavirus is a pandemic that's going around the world that formed in China."

10-year-old Caitlyn Adesanya also had an understanding of the virus and its effects: "I know that it's a virus you can get from touching surfaces and it's affecting a lot of people."

"It’s causing you to not breathe," Allison Chinn, 9, said. "You have a headache and you can barely talk and you can die."

"It makes me feel sad because I don't want people to die," Martin said. "I want people to live and have a nice life."

"A lot of people are dying and getting sick," Adesanya said. "And people can't go visit you In the hospital. I feel bad because if I was sick and I wasn't able to see my parents or family I would be really sad and alone in the hospital."

The seven children interviewed by Good Morning Jacksonville Anchor, Keitha Nelson were asked to describe their daily activities now that they're not going to school due to the coronavirus. 

"We can't go anywhere," Adesanya said.  "I can't go to school, I can't see my friends."

"I don't know why I'm not doing school," Emily Piron, 7 said.

Six-year-old twins Elijah and Finn McLeod said they know why they're not in school and they're not happy about it. 

Finn explains: "there might be people with the coronavirus in the school." 

"I'm not in school because in our county there are people with the coronavirus so they shut down the schools so kids wouldn't be infected," Martin said.

At age seven, in spite of having an idea of what could happen if people get sick from COVID-19, Piron's focus is on things getting back to normal. "I want to go back to school and see my friends and teachers," Piron said.

"I want to see my teachers everyday, I want to see my friends everyday, I can’t do that from home," Chinn said.

Using video chat all of the children have been able to reach out to friends and family but for them that's simply not good enough.

"I’ve been doing zooms a lot with my soccer teammates and my friends because we can’t really be in person and see each other," Chinn said. 

"I used to see my grandparents all of the time and now it's on video call," explained Killingsworth. "Everything is video. Everything is virtual."

"I can't actually play with my friends," complained Martin. "I'm just stuck inside and it's depressing sometimes. Staying inside with the same person. I want to see some more people you know what I mean?"

Most of the children questioned said they are finding ways to enjoy the extra time at home with family.

"I have a pool so my sister and me go in there," Piron said. "It's really cold."

"We watch movies, we cook dinner together, we fish from our backyard," Chinn said.

And when things return to normal Killingsworth says the first thing on her to-do list is to spread some love: "Go see everybody and hug everybody."

"I want to go to a national park because that is what I’ve been dying to do!," exclaimed Chinn.

Adesanya,10, offers this advice, "Make sure you can find something fun to do to keep you occupied. And know that you're not the only one facing this."

If you are a parent concerned about how this pandemic is affecting your child Tracy Alloway, professor of psychology at UNF offers some insight and tips.

"One of the things that's very strong in human nature is this need to connect and that is driven by oxytocin," Alloway said. "It's a powerful neurotransmitter that's released immediately when a mother bonds with a child. I think the exciting news is research shows that even online interactions release oxytocin in the individual." 

Alloway offers advice to help your children through the COVID crisis. She says get creative by setting up online play dates and allow them to do arts and crafts through video chats with friends. 

Parents, be intentional with your words. Focus on good things like playing games and spending more time together as a family and encourage them to draw or express their feeling through art. Alloway's research shows that's a powerful tool to eliminate stress and anxiety.

"We do know that schools, for example, will not be coming back this school year so definitely in the next month kids won't get a chance to see their friends in person in a classroom setting," Alloway said. "So we do know that can be very troubling. Here are a couple of tips. We do know that changing one word can make all of the difference to their mindset. So often we may say 'yes but,' so if we can refrain and make it 'yes and,' research shows it can actually rewire how we use our brain and shift the focus to a more optimistic outlook."

As for children concerned about their parents who are frontline workers, Alloway says it's important not to dismiss their concerns.

"The first thing is to acknowledge that fear instead of shutting it down and saying it's going to be ok," Alloways said. "Give them the space to express their emotions and how they feel. You can say mom takes a lot of precautions when she's at work she wears a mask, gloves and here's what you can do at home. Wash your hands and use sanitizer."

When interviewed about what the coronavirus is, 6-year-old Elijah McLeod responded: "When people eat bats."

"I think it's really important to address that from a fact perspective," Alloway said. "Correct them by saying that is not accurate. You get this much like the cold or flu where it's transmitted from maybe not washing your hands, or practicing these good hygienic tips." 

When it comes to explaining to kids what's going on your details should depend on the child's developmental stage. Young kids obviously don't need to know mortality statistics. 

Alloway says always shift the focus to what their brains can handle. For a young child under seven or eight talk to them about what they can do like washing their hands.