Creative Communication Tools to Explain COVID-19 to Children and Youth

Globally, we are all trying to understand the Coronavirus or COVID-19 and what it means for our health, work, family, finances, and daily lives. As adults, we grapple to understand the virus and the impact it has had and will have in the near and distant future. It is complicated and can be overwhelming to consider. Children’s lives are also being greatly impacted in a variety of ways, and it can be that much more confusing for youth to understand what is going on.

Explaining COVID-19 to Children:

CILA is excited to share a resource, a cartoon illustration and explanation of COVID-19 in English and Spanish, created by Houston social worker Maria Ximena Maldonado-Morales, who is a therapist at Texas Children’s Hospital, and artist Ana M. Maldonado. The resource can be used to help explain COVID-19 and relevant public health measures to children. It presents the information in a way that is more engaging and easier to understand for youth.

During this challenging time, we celebrate the ingenuity, creativity, and thoughtfulness that Maria and Ana exhibited in creating this resource, as well as the many ways we have seen individuals and communities step up to help each other during this time.

Helping Children Affected by Separation or Grief due to COVID-19

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network also created a very helpful guide for caregivers or adults who are helping children suffering from traumatic separation or grief related to COVID-19. The tip sheet can be accessed here. It provides several tips in how to communicate with a child struggling to understand the situation and who is working through a variety of emotions including sadness and fear.

Working with Children in Immigration Matters during a Pandemic

At CILA, we want recognize working with children in immigration cases is never an easy task, and with COVID-19, it has only gotten more challenging. Youth who have been released from ORR shelters and are staying with sponsors in different communities can be impacted in a variety of ways just like we are all impacted – with school closures, potentially sick family members, changed daily life routines staying at home, and possible financial impact on the household.

Detained youth in shelters now have the added fear of a very contagious virus while living in congregant care. They have less access to attorneys working hard to support them. Detained immigration court cases have continued despite challenges with reunification to sponsors, state court closures, and many halted or delayed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) practices, which in full greatly limits detained youth’s ability to seek potential viable legal relief in their cases. We want to acknowledge the dedication of attorneys at legal service providers and firms, as well as pro bono attorneys working to support children during this difficult time.

Additional Highlighted Resources:
  • An online story-book called “My Hero is You” is a children’s book written in multiple different languages that can be used by parents, caregivers, and teachers to talk about COVID-19. The storybook was a project created by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings.
  • UNICEF has a variety of resources available to help adults talk with children and teens about COVID-19 and its effects, as well as resources for youth to share their perspectives. Voices of Youth encourages children and youth to share their creativity in poems or other messaging, illustrations, and other artwork as an outlet to work through and express their emotions and as an effort to help support each other and take care of one’s mental health and also to raise voices against related stigma and discrimination.
  • Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC) posted on their website a living document of an extensive list of resources for immigrant advocates in the greater Houston area.
  • Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) set up a webpage dedicated to posting information and resources related to COVID-19 for immigration practitioners, including updates from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Department of State (DOS), USCIS, etc.

We hope some of the resources highlighted in this blog post help you in your work. Additionally, remember if you are a practitioner in Texas, and you have a case-related question, you can always reach out to CILA with a technical assistance question. Requests for technical assistance may relate to the theory of the case, legal strategy, procedural and evidentiary issues, and best practices on working with children and victims of trauma.

We hope everyone can stay safe, healthy, sane, and informed during this time.