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A mother’s — and daughter’s — distress over coronavirus


A few days before the coronavirus forced the closing of Lido Elementary School, Christina Shaw, of Long Beach, noticed that her 7-year-old daughter Mia was feeling down and crying constantly. Shaw couldn’t pinpoint the cause of her daughter’s distress. Was it bullying, she asked herself? Was there something going on in school?

After talking with Mia, Shaw, a single mother of two girls, realized that her daughter was worried about the coronavirus. “I didn’t realize at the time that her and her friends were talking about it,” Shaw said.

As of Wednesday, there were 56 confirmed cases of Covid-19 on the barrier island and more than 3,200 in Nassau County, according to the county Department of Health.

Christina and her ex-husband, Jamie Shaw, explained the situation to Mia, and told her about the preventive actions they needed to take to avoid getting infected.

“And then she was fine — literally, it was like I got my child back,” Shaw said. “I think that she just needed to know that we had it under control,” Shaw explained that her family had lost their home in a fire three years ago, but Mia was OKbecause she saw that her parents had that situation under control.

Shaw, the owner of an Allstate insurance company in Wantagh, said she had the luxury of being able to work at home, while also monitoring her children. She has a nanny who cares for Mia and her 4-year-old sister.

Nonetheless, Shaw said, she felt the stress and anxiety created by having to stay at home, as many people have expressed on social media, and not being able to do routine tasks like going to the store or the gym. Shaw said she tries to keep calm and goes out to walk. Her daughters also walk, do school work and, for now, play with each other.

“I think they’re kind of enjoying life right now, and they have each other,” Shaw said. But, she added, “I can see, in like a week or two, this getting very old, and they’ll want to see their friends.”

She said she planned to set up play dates for them, and that staying in touch with other parents and friends had helped her deal with the stress. And, she said, being forced to work at home was a nice “pause” from life, and offered her more time with her family.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has generated a list of ways parents can help reduce stress for their children during the pandemic. It includes limiting exposure to news and social media, maintaining regular routines, taking breaks, getting plenty of sleep, exercising and eating healthy.

Anthony Santella, associate professor of public health at Hofstra University, created a youth webinar to help children better understand the coronavirus and its effects. He hosts two sessions — one for elementary and middle school students, and another for high school students. The next session for the younger group is scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m., and the next one for older students is next Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Santella’s nieces Alexa and Audra Lacomis help him with the elementary and middle school session from their home in Norwalk, Conn.

“As a public health professional specializing in infectious disease prevention and control,” he said, “I wanted to do my part to stop this pandemic.”

Santella touches on topics such as how the virus works, how it started, signs and symptoms and ways to slow its spread. He holds a live question-and-answer session after his presentation.

The best way to speak about the virus with children, he said, is to use medically accurate, age-appropriate concepts and photos. He noted that the most important things kids should know are the importance of washing their hands, coughing and sneezing into their elbow or a tissue, and, for now, staying away from others outside their homes.

“Between being an educator and practicing what I preach — and I am staying at home — I had an idea to speak to the kids in my family and those of my close friends about these topics,” Santella said. “From there, I made it a more formal PowerPoint, and then it went live to a national audience, being endorsed by schools and health associations.”

Santella holds the sessions via Zoom, a remote video conferencing service, and said that he currently has about 1,000 people registered for his courses. To register, go to anthonyjsantella.com.