It’s all over the news and social media. The coronavirus—in particular, COVID19—has people of all ages understandably concerned. When a director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells the public to be prepared for a “significant disruption” of their routines, it certainly raises red flags.
But how do we make sure our children aren’t overwhelmed by fear of this disease?
First, some good news to help ease your mind: So far, it appears that the virus produces mild symptoms in children. It has been serious (and yes, even deadly), but people who have died have had significant underlying health issues.
Of course, we can’t be certain what will unfold as the virus continues to spread globally. With so much still unknown, it’s hard not to let the worry train go off the rails.
Whether you are barely concerned at all, extremely worried or somewhere in between, it’s crucial that you remain calm so that you don’t burden your children with unnecessary angst.
“As a parent, you need to be very careful not to put your fears and anxieties onto your child,” says Dr. Sue Cohen, Director of Early Childhood and Psychological Services at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center. “Even if you’re feeling very anxious, you don’t want to catastrophize.”
What you choose to tell your child depends in part on their age. “Give them information in amounts they can handle according to their developmental level,” says Dr. Cohen. “There’s no need to bombard them with the whole CDC report. They need bits of information that are easily understandable.”
It’s important to clarify any misconceptions they may have, she adds. “Ask your kids what they have heard about the virus, so you’ll understand where their fears are coming from. As is the case with any situation, let them know you are available to speak to them about any concerns they might have.”
Tips on Avoiding Viruses
Finally, share with them the best hygienic practices to prevent them from catching the virus, as well as a cold or any type of respiratory illness (see below). Says Dr. Cohen, “Be their role model when it comes to handwashing and other preventive measures.”
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.