More and more parents are finding that the hot topic at school is the spread of a strain of coronavirus (COVID-19). From young elementary school students to high-schoolers, information on the virus is being passed back and forth . Some true, some exaggerated, and some flat out false. How can you help your kids sort through this?
Similar to situations where there is a constant flow of tragic news –whether it be a mass shooting or natural disaster – sometimes the best approach to keeping children from becoming overly anxious is to dial back on their news exposure. The constant stream of online stories and cable news headline banners about the coronavirus can feel overwhelming.
While the radios and TVs are muted, use this opportunity to talk to children about the things they can control and the ways they can keep themselves and others healthy, such as eating healthy foods, getting a good night’s sleep, covering their coughs and following good hand hygiene.
“As parents, our first intuition is always to protect our children from ‘the tough stuff’ of the world,” said Dr. Katrina Lindsay, a pediatric psychologist. “However, children in 2020 are saturated with media, and may often learn about crises at school, on television or by talking to others. Oftentimes, children’s half-knowledge and imagined fears are more frightening than the truth so it is often recommended that you start the conversation, with a question such as ‘Are you and your friends talking about the coronavirus at school? I’d be interested to know what you think and how you are feeling.'”
It may also be reassuring to tell children that hundreds of smart, dedicated doctors and scientists worldwide are involved, caring for patients, working to stop the spread of the disease and studying the virus in laboratories so they can develop effective treatments. A vaccine is already in development.