How Sheryl Sandberg explained coronavirus and quarantining to her children, and her advice for working parents who are struggling

ashontell@businessinsider.com (Alyson Shontell)
Sheryl Sandberg and her fiancé, Tom Bernthal.

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Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg is working from home, just like millions of other Americans. She is sheltering in place with her fiancé, Tom Bernthal, and their five children.

One hurdle that's been difficult for all parents is figuring out how to explain the pandemic to their families without scaring them.

In a wide-ranging interview with Business Insider, Sandberg explained how she discussed the virus with her children.

"I think you explain it a couple of ways. One, you explain it that we're protecting us from being sick. When they say, 'But we're kids, we can't get sick,' you explain that the more people are home and shelter at home, the more you're protecting health workers," Sandberg says.

Sandberg's siblings are both doctors, as is her brother's wife. One of Bernthal's brothers is also a doctor. So she made sure their children understood that they were "protecting Aunt Michelle and Uncle David and Uncle Nick and Aunt Amy, because the more other people stay home, the more we protect the people who need to go out there."

It's important to give children a sense of security, too.

"We don't want to scare our kids," Sandberg says. "We tell them, 'You're not going to get sick, and we're young. If we get it, we're going to be OK, but a lot of other people aren't, and we have a responsibility to stop the spread of this disease. That means you eliminate any contact you can eliminate.'" (Children are at lower risk but can still be carriers for the virus and in some cases have become seriously ill.)

Sandberg's family quarantined earlier than most, and she says it was difficult explaining to her children why they couldn't attend parties and sleepovers when other kids were still able to. But once her children got it, they began asking what they could do to help.

Sandberg and Bernthal recommended they FaceTime people they know who are home alone every day. "They've been calling their grandparents very regularly. They've been calling other adults in their life. Give everyone something they can do to help someone else," Sandberg says.

The pandemic isn't only difficult on children. It's also difficult on the caregivers, who are often being asked to do two full-time jobs at once: watching/teaching kids or the elderly, as well as maintaining a paycheck.

To that, Sandberg says it's a good time to reach for more equality in the household. Traditionally, maintaining a household has fallen on women more than men. According to Melinda Gates, women spend seven more years, on average, working than men because of all the unpaid labor they do at home, from cooking to cleaning to child rearing.

"The only way to get through this is to share the load of caretaking, and that is super important," Sandberg says.

"Women do the great majority of childcare. Women do the great majority of taking care of elderly parents, including their in-laws. Women do the majority of taking care of their husbands' parents. If you are in a couple, this is a hard time, but this is a good time for really reaching for a little equality. Lean in at home, gentlemen!"

As for managing anxiety, Sandberg knows about that, too. A few years ago her husband, Dave Goldberg, suddenly died, and Sandberg had to learn how to pick herself back up for her kids.

"One step in front of each other," Sandberg says. "We don't know what's going to happen here. Get through today. Do the very best you can to help someone."

Read the full interview with Sandberg here.

Read the original article on Business Insider