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Talking to kids about Covid-19 (Novel Coronavirus)

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During any crisis situation, it is natural to wonder what to say or how much to share with your children. Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Family Health & Wellness program has a few general tips for parents to help these conversations go smoothly. Our children can be anxious or worried considering all the recent changes to their ordinary routines. You can ease some of their stress by acknowledging some level of concern, without causing panic, and explaining how these changes help keep your family safe and healthy. To help kids cope with their anxiety, we must be ready to give them accurate, age-appropriate information without causing undue alarm. Here are some practical tips followed by some resources to help make your conversation a little easier.

General Principles for Talking to Kids*

  • Remain calm and reassuring . Children react to both what you say and how you say it. They will pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others.
  • Make yourself available to listen and to talk . Make time to talk. Be sure they know they can come to you when they have questions.
  • Pay attention to what they see or hear on television, radio, or online. Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety.
  • Provide honest and accurate information . Give children information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child. Talk to children about how some stories on COVID-19 on the internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccuracies.
  • Teach children that everyday actions can reduce the spread of germs . Remind children to stay away from people who are coughing, sneezing, or sick. Remind them to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow, then throw the tissue into the trash.
  • Discuss any new actions that may be taken at home to help protect children and loved ones around them ( like increased handwashing, cancellation of activities, etc.).
  • Get children into a handwashing habit . Teach them to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. If soap and water are not available, teach them to use hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol. Supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent swallowing alcohol.

For parents of young children, the Zero to Three website offers excellent tips on how to answer your child’s questions in an age-appropriate manner. Visit their website at:

Tips for Families: Coronavirus :

https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/3210-tips-for-families-coronavirus

For more resources on Covid-19 (Coronavirus) information check out these links:

COVID-19 Facts

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/

FAQ’s Coronavirus & Children

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/children-faq.html

Tips for Encouraging Handwashing with Kids

https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/handwashing-family.html

Steps to Prevent Illness & Protect Others

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fabout%2Fprevention-treatment.html

CDC’s recommendations on keeping your home safe

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/workplace-school-and-home-guidance.pdf

Managing Stress & Anxiety

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html?

Stress and Coping

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fabout%2Fcoping.html

Taking Care of Emotional Health

https://emergency.cdc.gov/coping/selfcare.asp

Sesame Street in Communities - Staying Healthy

https://sesamestreetincommunities.org/topics/health/

Easy to Read Information on COVID-19

http://easyread.info/coronavirus-easy-read/

Comic for kids from NPR

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/02/28/809580453/just-for-kids-a-comic-exploring-the-new-coronavirus