“My name is Chase,” a five-year-old boy said, standing alone in his empty backyard. “And I miss my friends. Can I go and play at the park with them?”
“Hi Chase,” Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere answered, beaming from his home office. “What a beautiful backyard. I think before this is over, I’m going to have to visit your backyard and race you back there. But in order to do that, I have to keep a distance of six feet away from you. If you want to go to the park and be with your friends that’s the only condition. You can be in the park with them, but you can’t be near them. We have to be sure to keep our distance because that’s the way we’re going to beat this virus.”
This morning, the City of Plano hosted a town hall for kids. With the assistance of Plano ISD, they invited local kids across the city to submit questions on video for the mayor to answer.
During the COVID-19 crisis, it’s the most vulnerable among us that are impacted the most. Children especially are struggling with the disruption of their lives. Like their parents, they also fear that they or their loved ones might get sick and wonder what would happen if their parents lose their jobs. Kids share in the worries of the household without having any power to do anything about it.
A 2013 study by the Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness journal found that children who were isolated or quarantined during pandemic diseases were more likely to develop acute stress disorder, adjustment disorder, and grief, and 30 percent of the children who were isolated or quarantined met the clinical criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.
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Dr. Nicholas Westers, a clinical psychologist for children and adolescents at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas and an associate professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said the key is for parents to focus on what children can do. “If parents couch the message to teens that it isn’t about taking away your rights but how you can help get through this pandemic, altruism is better than coercion,” Westers told Local Profile in a March 20 report.
On Thursday morning, the town hall was a simple way for local children to ask their questions, voice their concerns, and be heard. It’s also what LaRosiliere called “the most fun town hall” he has ever been a part of.
One little boy wanted to know why it’s called coronavirus. “I get the virus part, but I don’t understand the corona part,” he said.
Another wanted advice on how to make life decisions during this time. A girl asked when COVID-19 will hit the city hardest. She is especially worried because her mother works in a hospital.
“The coronavirus affects everyone. That’s why we’re all being asked to stay at home. It affects young people, middle aged people and older people,” LaRosiliere told a young boy who wanted to know if school will start back up in May. He explained that school is likely done for the year but that we can all expect to be back in school in September.
“I can’t wait to come visit you in your school personally,” he added. “It’s one of the most fun things I get to do as mayor.”