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Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

 

Concern over this new virus can make children and families anxious. While we don’t know where and to what extent the disease may spread here in the United States, we do know that it is contagious, that the severity of illness can vary from individual to individual, and that there are steps we can take to prevent the spread of infection. Acknowledging some level of concern, without panicking, is appropriate and can result in taking actions that reduce the risk of illness. Helping children cope with anxiety requires providing accurate prevention information and facts without causing undue alarm. It is very important to remember that children look to adults for guidance on how to react to stressful events. If adults seem overly worried, children’s anxiety may rise. Adults should reassure children that health and school officials are working hard to ensure that people throughout the country stay healthy. However, children also need factual, age appropriate information about the potential seriousness of disease risk and concrete instruction about how to avoid infections and spread of disease. Teaching children positive preventive measures, talking with them about their fears, and giving them a sense of some control over their risk of infection can help reduce anxiety.

Specific Guidelines

Remain calm and reassuring.

·       Children will react to and follow your verbal and nonverbal reactions.

·       What you say and do about COVID-19, current prevention efforts, and related events can either increase or decrease children’s anxiety.

·       Remind them that the adults at their school are there to keep them safe and healthy.

·       Let children talk about their feelings and help reframe their concerns into the appropriate perspective.

Be honest and accurate.

·       In the absence of information, children often imagine situations far worse than reality.

·       Don’t ignore their concerns, but rather explain that at the present moment very few people in this country are sick with COVID-19.

·       Children can be told this disease is thought to be spread between people who are in close contact with one another—when an infected person coughs or sneezes.