Principal Rob Clark posted a video to his Twitter account on Dec. 8, after having a conversation about COVID-19 stigma with one of his students. / Video image

Principal Rob Clark posted a video to his Twitter account on Dec. 8, after having a conversation about COVID-19 stigma with one of his students. / Video image

I think it’s hard for kids: B.C. principal urges parents to talk to children about COVID

Silverdale Elementary’s Rob Clark said he spoke with a child who feared death after testing positive

A Mission principal is worried about how kids are interpreting COVID-19, after speaking with a child who felt shame after testing positive for the virus.

Principal Rob Clark of Silverdale Elementary posted a video to Twitter on Dec. 7, expressing his concerns about how adults are talking to their kids about the pandemic.

“If we as adults struggle with coming to terms with what it means to be in a pandemic, how much harder is it for a kid?” Clark said. “We don’t have all the answers, and kids look to us for those answers.”

Clark said he recently spoke with a child who confided that he had recently tested positive. Clark said he was shocked to hear the child was afraid to die, and felt ashamed.

“They were worried their friends wouldn’t hang out with them anymore, they were worried the other kids would see them as somebody not to play with,” Clark said. “They were thinking that maybe no one will ever want to be around them again.”

He said he got emotional over the conversation, because he knows how hard it was for the child to share those feelings with him. Clark said the kid is now receiving additional support, but worries about other how other kids are thinking about the pandemic.

The problem is not the messaging from the health authorities, or even parents, according to Clark, but that kids may be misinterpreting what the virus means on their own.

“This doesn’t happen because you’ve done something wrong,” Clark said in the video. “This spreads because it spreads.

“If your family, or anybody you know comes into contact with COVID-19, make sure you’re not shunning them, make sure you’re not excluding them, make sure you’re not contributing to their social isolation. Make sure you’re not stigmatizing it.”

Clark said Silverdale Elementary has focused on increasing support services, as well as youth-care and counselling times, but that continuing rites of passages in schools are also important.

When their annual trip to a local pumpkin patch was cancelled in October, Clark brought hundreds of pumpkins to the school and continued the tradition with COVID-19-safe rules.

He said he doesn’t have all the answers, but thinks parents need to be checking in with their kids regularly, and seeing how their feeling.

“We’re social beings in nature, I think it’s hard for kids – they don’t connect the same way on a phone call,” Clark said. “They need the things to find joy in, to love doing and the things that are coming up in future.”

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