Talking to Kids about Shelter-in-place


Reinforcing the Importance of Shelter-in-Place with Young People


This isn’t about you.

I was having a conversation with a teenager shortly before receiving the shelter-in-place order on Monday.  She wasn’t happy about the prospect of having her social life impacted and pointed out that she was at low risk for contracting COVID-19 and that even if she got it, she wouldn’t care- it was worth the risk of staying connected with her friends and classmates.   

I understood her reasoning but it was one of those moments when words just kind of flew out of my mouth on their own… “This isn’t about you.”  (I think I said it calmly… she seemed to be listening.)

When we provide guidance to our young people (or orders as the case may be) it is often aimed at helping them make choices directly beneficial to themselves. “Brush your teeth or else you may get cavities.”  “Apply yourself in school and you will learn more and be successful.”  That’s only natural because we want what is best for our kids. 

But the new shelter-in-place order is a little different; the benefit to young people is less direct so we may need to appeal to some of them differently.  Fortunately, young people, especially adolescents, often have a heightened sense of fairness and a willingness (once they understand a situation) to commit themselves to doing the right thing for the good of the world. They often end up setting an example for the rest of us! 

This is a team effort that will benefit old people more directly than young people. We need to remind our kids that their actions may have a real impact on the lives of others.  As the more resilient members of community, they have a duty to protect those of us at higher risk. So when you speak to your children, especially those old enough to socialize independently of adults, it is important to remind them of some key points that will help them build a sense of personal duty in relation to this effort:

·      This is serious.  The better their compliance with the order from the Health Department, the more lives will be saved. Infection, sickness and even death is reduced when people follow the order. Kids’ momentary inconvenience means the reduction of serious suffering for others.

·      Their role is to stay clear of gatherings of more than a few people. Public Health tells us that outdoor activities when people stay 6 feet away from one another are fine and will help reduce the stress that comes from being isolated.

·      They need to follow directions such as washing hands frequently and thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. As adults, we need to remind them to do that throughout the day. That applies to kindergarteners and 8th graders alike.

·      They are part of a moment in history. This is a time they won’t forget and it will feel good to know doing their part is just as important as any adult’s.

As always, please refer to the Public Health website for detailed information:

Many of us have never lived through an event where a clear national effort was needed in service of the common good and where we had specific instructions about what to do.   Though this is hard and sacrifice is needed, we will learn and grow from it. We will emerge knowing more about ourselves and our abilities to work together as one people.  Thanks for doing your part to help your children understand that.

Best of Luck and Good Health!

John Carroll, Superintendent