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How Do I Talk to My Children About COVID-19? | Kaiser Permanente

– Hi, I’m Dr. Bronstein, a pediatric infectious disease specialist
at Kaiser Permanente. In this time of school
closures and other disruptions to every day life, many of
us parents and caretakers may be wondering how to talk
with our kids about COVID-19, and what to do to keep
them and others healthy. It’s natural to be concerned
in times of uncertainty. And this can be a stressful
time for youngsters. The important thing to know is, based on the most current information about the impact of
COVID-19, evidence shows that children who contract
the virus recover well, and do not appear to have
serious complications. The greater risk is in unknowingly passing the virus on to individuals who are considered high
risk, such as the elderly, or people with underlying
health conditions. For example, a grandparent
with heart disease would be at higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19. So keeping children safe and unexposed goes a long way to keep everybody safe. If your child does have
cold or flu-like symptoms, it’s important to keep him or her home, away from crowded spaces
and vulnerable populations. Keep your child comfortable, and be sure to call your doctor for
further instructions. Children count on routines. Big changes like school closings could be unsettling to them. Your words and actions can go
a long way to reassure them. Talk with children directly
about what’s going on. Let kids know that children
are not getting severely ill from the coronavirus, and
that they will be okay. The reason that they
might have to stay home is because we’re all doing our best to protect our friends and neighbors, and slow down the spread of the virus so that more people don’t get sick. Make sure they know that
they can play a helpful role in protecting themselves,
their family and the community. By doing things like
washing hands frequently, sneezing or coughing into their elbow, and staying away from
others when they’re sick, they can help everyone stay healthy. It’s best to relay this information in short, brief conversations. And find a time each day to check in and ask what they’re hearing, and if they have any questions. This will allow you to correct any misinformation they’ve heard, answer their questions,
and offer reassurance. Providing children with daily
structure lowers their levels of distress and increases their ability to cope with uncertainty and change. With children home from school, it can be helpful to set
a routine for the day. Decide on a schedule that includes a time to get up, a time for schoolwork, lunchtime, and a few
structured fun activities. Keep in place any existing routine such as story time, evening
TV and bedtime rituals. Modeling healthy habits
for children shows them how we can all work together
to do the right thing. This includes managing
media coverage of COVID-19. Consider limiting news and social media to a specific time each day,
be mindful of news running in the background with
your children present, or frequently discussing the
news when they’re in the room. Try to substitute things
that support positive coping, playing a game together,
watching a funny show, or making a gratitude list before bedtime. Most importantly, don’t forget to prioritize your own self care. Simple things like getting
enough rest, eating well, exercising regularly and seeking support from trusted friends and family can increase your resilience
in stressful times. The more you can do to
keep yourself healthy and balanced, the more you’ll be helping your child feel safe, calm and worry free.

Jean Kelley