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SLO preschool teacher creates a guide to help parents talk to their kids about the coronavirus



Mona Smith has been a preschool teacher in San Luis Obispo for more than 25 years and loves working with children who are 4 to 5 years old.

Smith enjoys that age because, over the years and through raising her own four children, she's found that age to be very honest.

TOUGH TALKS Local preschool teacher Mona Smith created a guide to help parents navigate how to talk to their children about the current pandemic. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL SMITH
  • Photo Courtesy Of Michael Smith
  • TOUGH TALKS Local preschool teacher Mona Smith created a guide to help parents navigate how to talk to their children about the current pandemic.

"You always know where you stand with them. They don't lie to you, and they always come in with their own ideas each day," she said.

That honesty and a gentle nudge from her husband compelled Smith to create a guide to walk parents through how to chat with their kids about the coronavirus pandemic.

Before the virus halted in-person classrooms, Smith saw a few of her pupils playing as if they were in a doctor's office, talking about the coronavirus. One of the pupils told the other, "You could die," she said. Her instinct was to say, "We don't need to talk about that," but Smith said if a parent doesn't talk to their child about the virus, chances are they'll still hear about it.

She suggests asking them what they might already know about COVID-19 as a way to start the conversation.

"When we're nervous or stressed, we behave differently, so if you [the parent] are experiencing that, chances are they're feeling nervous about what's happening as well, because their life is disrupted," Smith said.

In her guide, Smith gives examples of how she would answer questions about the virus from children ranging in age from toddler to teenager.

Along with answering your child's questions about the virus, Smith said, assure them that you are there for them and are doing everything you can as a family to stay safe by washing hands properly and staying home.

"This is not a one-time conversation because children hear things and then they process it. So you might have a second and third conversation," she said.

Smith advises parents to check in with themselves as well, as many continue to work from home and have also become teachers for their children. If the conversation doesn't go exactly how a parent would hope, Smith said just try your best.

"Yes, I know we like to appear fearless but we're human. It's OK to make mistakes, but here's a guide that can hopefully help you out," she said. "We're all in this together."

To access Smith's free guide—How to Talk to Children About the Coronavirus: A Parent and Caregiver's Guide to an Open Conversation with Children During These Challenging Times—visit Keep an eye out for her upcoming guide on activities to do while sheltering at home.

Fast facts

The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County has awarded more than $30,000 from the Disaster Support Fund that it opened in response to the coronavirus emergency. With the support of generous community members and donors, Rapid Response Grants recipients included El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO), RISE, SLO Food Bank, Stand Strong, and 5 Cities Homeless Coalition. For additional information on donating to the relief fund, contact Cassandra Wagner at [email protected] or (805) 543-2323.

• To encourage future tourism, South SLO County female-owned hospitality businesses are teaming up to create a limited offering of 10 VIP packages. The Casitas of Arroyo Grande, Breakaway Tours Wine & Events, and The Spoon Trade's VIP package includes a two-night stay at The Casitas, gourmet fondue, two massages, a $150 gift card for dinner at The Spoon Trade, and a wine tour for two with Breakaway Tours. The future stay can be reserved through Dec. 31, 2021. The package would retail for $1,795 but is offered at $1,195. For information, contact Casitas owner Pat Shannon Goetz at (805) 710-1587 or [email protected].

• The Boys & Girls Club of Mid Central Coast created a private Facebook group that allows club members to visit their favorite staff members and participate in engaging activities aligned with the organization's core programs. Staff has created original content including art, physical activities, nutrition education, and more. Call (805) 922-7163 to donate or learn more. Δ

Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to [email protected].

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