Dozens of schools across the U.S. have shuttered for cleaning and sanitation after a staff member or student tested positive for the novel coronavirus, raising the question of how to discuss the virus with your child without causing additional fears and anxieties, especially as misinformation about COVID-19 circulates.
“With the Internet and schoolyard gossip, it can be very easy for kids and teens to hear misinformation surrounding the coronavirus,” Barbara Nosal, chief clinical officer at Newport Academy, told Fox News. “It’s important for parents to get ahead of the rumors and to advise kids and teens to practice good hygiene and healthy practices, including thoroughly and frequently washing hands, avoiding touching one’s eyes, nose and mouth, getting a good night’s sleep, and eating healthy.”
Nosal said it’s important to remember that children take cues from the adults that surround them, so how you address the virus at home may reflect in their behavior. And in the event of your child’s own school shutting down, maintaining a normal routine can help keep them calm.
“If you are obsessively worried about the coronavirus and talking about it, your kids will likely have anxiety about it too,” she said. “Managing your own fears and concerns apart from them is important as security is a primary need for children.”
Nosal also advised explaining that children are not considered particularly at risk for COVID-19, and that the best prevention they can employ is practicing good hygiene. In the event your child does come down with an illness, Nosal said it’s imperative to keep them at home and to avoid contact with other classmates and friends.
“Parents can compare the coronavirus to the common flu, saying that it is a kind of germ or virus that can make people sick,” Nosal said. “Assure your children that doctors are working hard to contain the virus and attend to those who do become sick.”
She also said it’s important to take into account the age of the child, as a 16-year-old will likely have different questions than a 6-year-old would. However, reminding kids of all ages that they shouldn’t be sharing food or drinks with classmates and friends can’t hurt.
“It’s important to provide facts, even if tempered for a younger child, and be honest with them,” she said. “Giving young children a sense of security and comfort is extremely important.”