You know the drill. It’s flu season, so you’re stocking up on Lysol wipes, hand sanitizer, and DayQuil (just in case!).
Other than being obsessive about washing, sanitizing, and catching every sneeze in a tissue, there are several other ways you can help your whole family stop the flu virus at the door.
Educating your kids and building healthy habits can go a long way toward supporting your infection prevention efforts during flu season.
Here are some of the best ways to help your family embrace healthy habits. Together, you can keep the fight against infection outside of their bodies – and your home!
Flu Prevention in Kid Language
Teaching your kids healthy habits starts with teaching them about pathogens and how they can get sick – without resorting to fear tactics.
You can’t exactly teach the advanced mechanics of contamination and infection to a three-year-old. However, you can teach them about the concept of germs in a way they can understand by making the lesson into a game.
First, take some glitter or black pepper and sprinkle it on your child’s hands. (Spoiler alert: To prevent a mess, stick to playing the game in the bathroom or near the kitchen sink.)
Next, invite your child to pretend that the glitter or pepper bits are germs. Explain that germs are a natural part of life and nothing to be feared, as long as you take care to get rid of them regularly.
Then, ask your child to shake your hand, touch a faucet knob, or touch his or her face. Look! Now the germs have spread.
Finally, show your child how to properly wash his or her hands (including around the fingernails!) and face to get rid of the germs. Remind your child that real germs are invisible, but if he or she does a good job washing up, they can be washed away.
Healthy Habits Make All the Difference
Once your child understands what germs are and how they can easily spread, it’s time to start building healthy habits.
We are naturally creatures of habit. We rely on routines for all the things we do that don’t require a lot of brainpower. By taking advantage of your natural inclination toward routine and habits, you can build health-protecting actions into your everyday routines.
For example, before brushing your teeth, wipe down the sink handles and the countertop with a disinfecting cloth. When packing a lunch for your kids, add a little bottle of hand sanitizer, as well.
While single-use sanitizer hand wipe packs are more effective at killing the majority of germs, some people still prefer to keep a handy dandy squeeze bottle of sanitizers on hand. There are some great hand sanitizers that attach to lunchboxes and are fun for kids (like these and these).
This is called “habit stacking” and it’s a popular life-hack because it works!
Kids love to be involved so help them learn how to stack habits, too. For example, teach your kiddos that germs can even live on the bottoms of shoes! When they come home and fling their backpacks into their natural spots, their shoes need to come off, too.
Similarly, you can make fun habit-tracking charts to reinforce your kids’ infection prevention efforts. Did your child wash his hands before dinner? Check! Did he remember to sneeze into a tissue then throw it away? Check! Let your kids earn points for each preventive task they complete and reward them with prizes for their points at the end of the week.
The best way to get your family to build healthy, flu-preventing habits is to lead by example. Set the standard by modeling the habits you want to see in your family, then encourage your children when they follow your lead.
Struggling to get your kids to follow flu-prevention rules? Let us know in the comments below! We’ll help you brainstorm some creative ways to get every member of your household on board.