How to prepare your child for a COVID-19 test

TORONTO — Now that students have returned to classrooms across Canada, a growing number of parents are having to take their children to get tested for COVID-19.

However, the experience may be daunting for some kids.

Child development and parenting expert Caron Irwin told CTV’s Your Morning that preparing one’s children for a COVID-19 test is “really important.”

Irwin, who recently took her three-year-old son to get tested, says that preparing kids for what they can expect at the testing centre will help them feel in control of the situation.

“Things that you want to focus on is are they going to have to wait — probably — and where they’re going to be waiting. Giving that information is important. Also explain where the test is going to happen,” Irwin said in an interview on Wednesday.

She added that parents should also show their children an image of what doctors and nurses at the testing centres will look like as it may be very different from the last time they were in a medical setting.

“Showing them a picture of what the health-care professionals will be wearing and all the PPE that they’ll have, the mask, the gown, the booties, the hair net — all that stuff is really important so that when they see that they feel comfortable because they’re more familiar,” she explained.

When it comes down to the actual test, Irwin said parents should explain the process to their children in a way that is realistic, but not terrifying. She suggests using a cotton swab as part of the demonstration.

“I would say [to kids] that the test is going to use a tool that looks like a Q-Tip on a longer stick. They’re going to put the Q-Tip up into your nose, give it a little tickle and then take it out and they’re going to take the Q-Tip after we’ve left and look at it under a microscope or do tests on it to see if you have the germs of coronavirus,” Irwin said.

By explaining the process using an everyday item, Irwin said it will make the test seem less foreign to children.

“Obviously showing the visual will be important because that might be familiar if they see this, and they see it in the test itself that will be helpful,” she said.

“This is really important again because when they’re in that position of getting the test, they’ll feel more in control.”

Irwin said parents may also want to try practising a comfort hold on their kids at home to help ease any worries the child may have about the testing process. She said doing the technique during the test can create a sense of calm for the children since the move is like a “big bear hug.”

“What you’re going to do is put your child on your lap… You’re going to wrap your legs around their legs, you’re going to put your arm across their chest and give them a tight squeeze. You’re going put your [other] hand on their forehead and have them look up to the sky, and that helps the health-care professional so they’re better able to access their nose,” Irwin explained as she demonstrated on her own son.

While distracting one’s child during medical exams or vaccinations may have previously worked, Irwin acknowledged that using the comfort hold and the nature of the COVID-19 test means parents will have to find new and different ways to take their kid’s attention elsewhere.

“You’re not going to be able to have your hands free and bring all the bells and whistles or your phone out or things like that,” Irwin said.

Irwin suggests parents sing their child a song or nursery rhyme. If they are holding their child in the comfort hold, Irwin said parents could also rub their forehead or squeeze their shoulder in a pattern to help distract the child during the test.

Despite being a nerve-wracking experience for some children, Irwin said it is important for parents to celebrate their kids after they’re tested.

She said parents should commend their children on what they did well during the test, while also talking about what could be done better in case of a next time.

“If we think about this, our kids might have to do this more than once and so celebrating at the end is going to be really helpful and also reframing,” Irwin said.

“Those sort of things are going to help your kid be successful and have more positive association with the test, if it has to happen again.”


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