How Actress Sarah Michelle Gellar Is Honest With Her Kids About the Pandemic

Sarah Michelle Gellar


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Sarah Michelle Gellar has spent the last 18+ months trying to keep it real with her two kids amid a global pandemic. The actress grew comfortable slaying fictitious bag guys onscreen as the formidable Buffy Summers, but that was a cakewalk compared to tackling the challenges brought on by COVID-19. Like other parents, she became a remote school teacher, hand-washing enforcer, 24/7 kid entertainer, and her children's go-to source for updates on what was and wasn't risky in terms of staying healthy.

Gellar is used to wearing many hats, but these new roles were overwhelming. Aside from acting, she is co-founder of Foodstirs Junk-Free Bakery, which offers sweet treats made from better-for-you ingredients, as well as a passionate philanthropist. Gellar also works with Lysol's HERE for Healthy Schools initiative back, helping to educate students and educators on the importance of hand hygiene and a clean classroom.

In our interview, Gellar shares how she navigated her kids, 12-year-old Charlotte and 9-year-old Rocky, through the darkness of the pandemic and how she tries to instill a philanthropic spirit as a family.

VWF: Most kids are back in school now, but there was a lot of time spent at home over the past year and a half. What did you learn about yourself as a parent during that time?

SMG:  The main thing that we're supposed to take from this is we all need to slow down a little bit. We got that gift of time with our kids. It was almost like there was a timeout on life for a minute, and it was just all of us together getting to have that time. As scary and as sad as the reasons behind it, I'm grateful for that time that experience.

I'm honest with my children. I want them to understand that this is real, that I don't have all the answers, and that I'm learning as we go.

VWF: How did you explain the pandemic to your kids?

SMG: I'm honest with my children. I want them to understand that this is real, that I don't have all the answers, and that I'm learning as we go. That's the best that we can do. I don't give them all the information, but I give them enough so that they understand. I believe in the end, we do them a disservice if we're not honest with them.

VWF: How do you teach gratitude to your kids?

SMG: I try to lead by example. I joke that I work as an actor to support my charity habit. If I had all the money in the world, that's what I would love to do. I feel so fortunate for the things that I've been given. The opportunities I have to give back are really important.

As soon as I got my vaccine, the first thing I started to do again was volunteer at World Central Kitchen. Helping others also helps you. It feeds the soul in a different way. I lead by example with my kids to show them that we are very fortunate, and there are lots of ways we can give back.

Verywell Family: How do you have conversations with your own kids about healthy hygiene?

Sarah Michelle Gellar: We've talked a lot about this recently. It's not just about you being healthy, eating well and sleeping well, but it's about protecting everybody around us and what that responsibility looks like. It's about protecting your community, because by protecting them, you're also protecting yourself. That makes you good community member.

VWF: You are an ambassador for Lysol's HERE for Healthy Schools, a campaign to help schools in need. How did you get involved?

SMG: I've been working with this initiative since it was launched in 2019 and what's so interesting is, now in hindsight, realizing how ahead of the curve it really was. In 2019 we were talking a lot about the flu, germs, and really establishing healthier habits because hand washing had sort of taken a backseat. It was about how educators and parents can talk to children, encouraging these great habits.

Lysol partnered with Kinsa smart thermometers, not realizing that now in 2021 I have to take my kids' temperature each day before I can send them to school to get a baseline. Then they took the initiative a step further this year. In September for every canister of Lysol purchased, they donated one, through the Kids in Need Foundation, to an underserved school. While we're still COVID-focused right now, at the same time, there are still all these other viruses that are now going to be out there that are in school which kids need protection from.

The main thing that we're supposed to take from this is we all need to slow down a little bit. We got that gift of time with our kids. It was almost like there was a timeout on life for a minute.

VWF: For parents who want to start teaching their kids about giving back to their communities, where would you suggest they start?

SMG: The first thing that you can do is don't shelter them from the fact that there are people that don't have homes, there are people that don't get the luxury of going to school, that these are all things we're lucky to have and to be appreciative of that. The first step is just understanding and being grateful. My kids are so lucky.

Each year on their birthdays they get all of these presents. Every year we go through the closets and their toys to figure out what we can give to kids that aren't that fortunate. I want them to understand that process. You don't want to scare your children and you don't want them to have that fear, but you also want them to have an understanding of what's going in the world around them.

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