Help your children understand what’s going on in the world around them
By: Dr. Thomas Challman, medical director of Geisinger's Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute (ADMI) and neurodevelopmental pediatrician
If you’re a parent, you’re no doubt doing your best to keep your kids safe and healthy right now. You might also be facing a lot of questions — and trying to answer them in ways that reassure your children, while still being honest.
To help facilitate the discussion, here are a few tips on how to talk about coronavirus with your kids.
Arm yourself with information about COVID-19
Gather as much information as you can about COVID-19, including how it’s spread, precautions your family can take and who’s really at risk. Geisinger’s Coronavirus Resource Center is a great place to start.
This coronavirus content hub, linked right from our homepage, gives you quick access to frequently updated facts about the virus, answers about personal concerns and helpful advice from our experts.
Keep the site open during your discussion — and check back frequently for information that will always be factual, locally driven and direct from the healthcare providers you’ve trusted for years.
Ask your children what they already know about the new coronavirus
Whether you have a teen who’s scrolling through social media or a little one who overheard something scary during a play date, chances are, your kids know (or think they know) about COVID-19. Ask them what they’ve already heard. You may be able to dispel some fears right away — and start a broader discussion.
Be comforting, but honest
Remind your children that most people who get the virus feel like they have a cold or the flu.
Let them know what the symptoms of coronavirus are and tell them to let you know if they aren’t feeling well. As a parent, watch for the following symptoms in yourself and in your children — which might not appear for up to 14 days after exposure:
- Shortness of breath
If your or your child are experiencing any of these symptoms, stay home from work or school, rest and drink lots of fluids. Keep an eye on your symptoms and call your doctor if they worsen.
Remind your children that most people — especially young people — recover with no problem. You can also reassure them that health systems like Geisinger are always prepared for flu season and even a pandemic. We’re ready to care for your kids, their family and friends.
Empower young virus fighters
Once their fears are eased, you can empower your children to be coronavirus fighters. Remind them that by washing their hands for at least 20 seconds, getting enough rest and staying out of public areas for now, they can help stop the virus in its tracks.
In other words, take the focus away from vague fears and channel their attention toward direct actions they can take to be part of the solution.
Remember to take time for yourself, too. Check in on your mental health regularly and make time for self-care. We’re all in this together. And everyone can play a part in good health for all.