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How to talk to your kids about Coronavirus

The COVID-19-related “closure” announcements came quickly. First, the University of Texas at Austin closed its campus on March 13, one day before spring break, and soon after, a host of other closings were announced including the Austin Independent School District.

With widespread school, pre-school and camp closures for extended weeks, not to mention many changes to families’ spring break plans, kids are bound to ask questions. What and how much should you tell them?

In an interview with the Austin American-Statesman, Dr. Elizabeth Knapp, Co-Chief of ARC Pediatrics, suggests that before starting the conversation, parents should first check their own anxiety level. “Make sure if you are feeling really anxious about this virus, to take a deep breath and calm yourself,” she says. If you are still anxious about this conversation, perhaps the other parent or a grandparent or another adult should be the one to have the conversation.

Why is it important to check your own anxiety? Dr. Knapp told the Statesman that kids may not want to turn to them the next time they are worried or concerned about something if they feel their parent is too anxious.

Dr. Knapp suggests providing facts to kids of all ages and to start by asking them about what they already know. Listen to what they say and correct any misinformation. Start with a question like, “Have you heard grownups talking about a new sickness going around?”

Also, talk about the importance and reasons for avoiding germs. Many kids won’t understand that germs are “invisible,” but you can explain that “germs can go inside your body to make you sick.”  As for death rates, she says there is no need to discuss who is most at risk unless that’s something your kids are asking about.

You can, however, reassure them that “most kids don’t get sick, and if they do, it’s just a little sick”, said Dr. Knapp.

Use the conversation as a time to reinforce prevention tips, mainly handwashing, ideally for 20 seconds with soap and water, especially before eating, and avoid touching the face.

Read the full story at the Statesman.com.

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Tags: Dr. Elizabeth Knapp, Austin American Statesman, ARC Pediatrics, Coronavirus FAQs

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