If you’re a parent, you probably have urgent questions about how to protect your child from COVID-19. Naturally, you might be wondering what social distancing practices you and your family should follow to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Here are some answers, based on the best information currently available.

Is My Child Really At Risk for COVID-19?

The latest data from China indicates that children are more at-risk than experts initially thought. Younger kids are more likely to develop complications than older kids. Children with underlying medical conditions, especially those with chronic or complex illnesses, are more likely to experience severe symptoms when infected with COVID-19. Children with asthma, cystic fibrosis, and upper respiratory conditions appear to be most at-risk for complications.

The overall mortality rate for children with COVID-19 remains low compared to the mortality rate for adults. Still, the mortality rate for children with COVID-19 is 20 times higher than the mortality rate for kids with the flu: .2% for COVID-19 as compared to .01% for flu. So while the chances of a child dying from the coronavirus are low, this new virus should still be taken more seriously than the flu.

What Precautions Should My Family Take?

Kids should follow the same preventive methods as adults. These include:

  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds — particularly after using the bathroom, before meals, and after sneezing, blowing their nose, or coughing (and opting for hand sanitizer containing 60% alcohol if no soap and water are nearby)
  • Coughing or sneezing into a tissue, then discarding the tissue in the garbage and washing their hands
  • Staying away from anyone who has symptoms that could be indicators of COVID-19
  • Having all necessary vaccinations, including the flu shot
  • Refraining from touching the face
  • Staying home if they are ill
  • For parents, it’s important to regularly clean or disinfect areas that are often touched, like doorknobs and kitchen countertops, with available cleaning wipes or solutions.

Is It Safe to Play Outside With My Child?

Children and adults should be kept away from crowds, which is simpler to do in suburban or rural areas. Getting some outdoor exercise as a family is crucial for physical and psychological well-being — not just for kids, but also for parents. It’s still important that kids keep their hands clean to the extent possible and avoid touching surfaces that could be contaminated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends keeping a distance of six feet from others to avoid contagion.

Is It Okay for My Child to Visit Their Grandparents?

According to federal guidelines, people are being asked to refrain from entering nursing homes and other facilities for the elderly unless they provide health care or other necessary assistance. It’s a difficult choice since social isolation is a serious longstanding issue for many seniors. Experts believe a sizable portion of the general population has the virus but displays only mild symptoms or no symptoms; they may not realize they are contagious, meaning the disease can continue to spread without detection. A recent study reported that 13% of children with positive COVID-19 tests were asymptomatic.

Taking all of this into consideration, it’s best if children do not visit their elderly relatives. About 52% of those turning 65 will require some form of long-term care during their lifetimes. This is the very population that is one of the most vulnerable to COVID-19, since seniors are more likely to develop complications and to die of the virus. Instead of visits, it’s a good time to consider having video calls with grandparents and sending them care packages with needed supplies.

Should I Cancel My Family’s Medical, Dental, and Other Appointments?

Although orthodontists recommend that children begin treatment by age seven, routine visits to doctors and dentists should be rescheduled so that people with emergencies due to COVID-19 or other conditions can access the help they need. There is currently a shortage of medical staff, equipment, and protective gear to combat the pandemic and to treat other serious health issues. A physical or check-up for a family member who isn’t ill can wait so that our limited resources go to people who are sick.

As for hair salons, many are closing across the country due to the pandemic. It’s impossible to maintain social distancing in a hair salon. Even if yours is open, it’s best to cancel appointments for you and your child.

How Do I Handle Joint Custody Arrangements?

Child support is to be paid until the child reaches age 21, but you’ll have to cooperate with your ex-partner to adjust your current joint custody agreement so that your child isn’t exposed to the virus. You must still follow the requirements of the court order, but you may need to be flexible to protect the physical and emotional well-being of your child. If you or your ex is potentially exposed to coronavirus through work, or if either of you tests positive for COVID-19, try to develop ways for your child to have meaningful interactions when they can’t see a parent in person. They can visit the affected parent via FaceTime or Skype, play online video games together but from separate residences, and spend time on Google Hangouts for homework assistance. Put any alterations to the usual visitation schedule in writing and be specific about when the previous arrangement will again be in place.

It’s best to provide kids with structure, consistency, and a routine they can depend on in times of upheaval. You’ll need to agree on the social distancing measures to be used in your home and your ex’s. Your child may be confused if one parent prohibits play dates and visits to the park while the other parent tells them these activities are okay.

These are scary times, but you can do a great deal as a parent to protect your child from COVID-19. It is crucial to seek out reliable sources of information and to learn how to avoid spreading the virus.