Preparing Your Child for a Drive-Through COVID-19 Test

By Kelly Foy, Child Life Specialist

If your child has a surgery or procedure scheduled, we want to make sure they’re as healthy as possible – and keep everyone safe from coronavirus exposure.

So as one of Connecticut Children’s Safe and Sound enhanced safety precautions, we now require a COVID-19 test (with a negative result) prior to your child’s surgery, procedure or designated appointment. We’ll schedule this for you at our drive-through testing site.

You may want to prepare your child ahead of time. To help, Child Life specialist Kelly Foy joins the blog.

Find out what your child already knows about coronavirus.

  • Simply ask what they know about coronavirus (COVID-19). If they don’t know anything, help explain to them in a way that is appropriate for their age and development.
  • Need help with this? Check out our developmental pediatrician’s advice for talking to kids about coronavirus.

Talk to your child about what will happen at the drive-through test.

COVID-19 testing area outside the Medical Center

  • Download this 3-page guide and share it with your child. Our Child Life specialists walk you both through every step of the test. Look at the pictures together. It’s comforting for kids to know what to expect – and having photos is a great way to prepare them!
  • Explain what our team members will be wearing, and why. You can explain that our medical gowns, gloves and masks help prevent the spread of germs, and keep everyone safe. (It’s OK with us if you want to pretend we’re superheroes too – and that all the cool gear is part of our costume.)
  • Explain the steps leading up to the test. You might say something like this: We’ll drive up to the hospital, but we get to stay in the car the entire time. First, we’ll say hello to a security guard who’ll make sure we’re at the right appointment. Then, someone from the hospital will double-check your name and birthday. You and your child can even have a dress rehearsal – no actual swabbing required – at home in your driveway the day or two before the test!
  • Describe how the test works. If your child has been tested for the flu in the past, you can tell them the swab is similar to that. You could also explain the COVID-19 test like this: I’ll lower your car window, and the nurse will carefully place a long Q-tip up your nose for about 10 seconds. Your nose is kind of like a cave, and sometimes germs like to hide inside the cave. So the Q-tip is used to check in the back of the cave, which is close to your eyes. It’ll feel pretty strange. It’s important to keep your body still.
  • Tell them what happens next. For example: The Q-tip will be sent to a doctor who will look at it very closely for germs. And you and I get to drive home and do something special as your reward!

Have a plan to help your child cope during the test.

Team member in full PPE hands paperwork to family during drive-through COVID-19 testing

Children often do best when they feel some sense of control – and one way to do that is to give them choices.

  • Enlist their help picking out music to listen to.
  • Plan a reward to look forward to after the test, like a favorite snack or activity at home.
  • Have them pick out a favorite toy or stuffed animal to bring along.
  • Ask: “What could we bring with us to help?” Other comforting items might include a favorite book, blanket, electronic device or coping toolbox.
  • Bring a cold drink for them to sip afterward (this can help soothe the strange sensation they may feel from the swab).

Create a calm, upbeat atmosphere on the drive there.

  • Listen to your child’s favorite music.
  • Talk about fun topics, such as favorite family stories or your child’s favorite game.

Support your child during the test.

  • If possible, sit next to your child in the car or unbuckle and turn around to face them and hold their hand or rub their arm.
  • Reassure them by saying things like “You can do this!” and “You are strong!”
  • Pick a number to count to. Or if they’re old enough, use deep breathing or one of these other calming techniques.
  • Give them a small prize to hold like a sticker or matchbox car, to help distract from the funny feeling in their nose.
  • And although there are no needles of any kind involved in the COVID-19 test, you can also adapt some of the helpful tips from this post about overcoming needlephobia.

After the test, congratulate your child on doing a great job!

Focus on everything that went well. Praise your child for good behavior, and for doing their best.

Offer them a cold drink or snack, and direct their attention to something positive – like their planned reward.

Learn more about drive-through COVID-19 testing and our enhanced safety program >>

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