Coronavirus: Talking to kids about the outbreak

As the media covers stories about COVID-19, or nova coronavirus, kids are being exposed to the news that there is a health threat, but they may not understand what it means.

Parents and other trusted adults are going to get questions as the illness spreads across the country.


Experts say first it is important to put coronavirus in perspective.

While the news focuses on coronavirus, and it sounds scary, the impact may be minor for kids. The Journal of the American Medical Associated says most of those infected are between the ages of 49 and 56. If children develop the illness, they have milder symptoms, Dr. H. Cody Meissner, an infectious disease expert, told The New York Times.

Dr. Mark Mulligan, another infectious disease expert, told the paper, “Flu is killing a lot more Americans, including children. There’s no doubt the influenza virus will cause many more illnesses, hospitalizations and even deaths than this coronavirus.”

Protect yourself

Like any illness, children need to be taught to wash their hands and do it correctly for at least 20 seconds with water AND soap. And they should do it frequently - before eating, after they use the bathroom, when they come in from outside or after they touch something dirty, the Times reported.

If they see someone coughing or sneezing, try to stay 6 feet way away from that person.

If an outbreak is declared in your area, stay home. Don’t go to stores, movies or sporting events. Even schools could close to stop the spread of the virus.

Be positive, age appropriate

Don’t be all doom and gloom for kids. They will latch on to it, child psychologists say, according to NBC News. But you can also explain why the information seems to be everywhere.

If you do explain what’s going on, use age-appropriate language, child experts say. They may be worried more about their close circle -- like parents, family members and their pets. Reassure them that they will be OK.

One outlet that may help is BrainPOP, an online education site some schools use to supplement education. The company has produced a video that deals with coronavirus.

Also, be confident with your knowledge. Kids will follow your lead, not only when talking about what is in the news but also how they act. They will wash their hands if you wash yours, NBC News reported.

Older kids, preteens and teens, can have context added to the discussion.

But the most important thing a parent or an adult can do is listen. Listen to their questions, answer them, and comfort them, NBC News reported.

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