With all the headlines about the spread of the deadly coronavirus, it’s natural for parents to be concerned. But, kids not with a real grasp of how real the risk to them is, could be genuinely frightened by the reporting.
Here are some tips from the experts on how to speak to your kids about the real, and imagined, dangers of the corona outbreak.
“It’s natural to overreact to a stressor we can’t control,” said E. Scott Geller, an alumni distinguished professor of psychology at Virginia Tech. “And this is front and center right now, so we have to make an evaluation as to whether we can control this stressor. If we don’t think we’re in control, there’s distress.”
But the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the current risk to Americans is very low. So far, just eight people have been confirmed to have the new coronavirus in the United States (currently in Washington State, California, Arizona and Illinois, and Massachusetts). Another 165 are being tested, according to the CDC. To put that in perspective, the current U.S. population is 327 million people.
In China, there are more than 1.3 billion people. There have been 7,700 confirmed cases of the disease and 170 deaths so far, according to The New York Times. While the spread of the disease is concerning, people face far greater threats every day.
The difference, Geller said is that people feel like they have control over other threats. On a day-to-day basis, risky driving poses a much greater threat than coronavirus to the average American. Yet, people don’t often talk about or pay attention to that risk. “We feel in control. We think, ‘It’s not going to happen to me,'” Geller said.
Robin Gurwitch, a psychologist with Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., said, if you have children who seem concerned about what they’ve been hearing about this virus, find out what they know and what’s really worrying them. “Ask, ‘What have you heard about this?'” she suggested.
“Be honest with kids. Explain that it started in China and people are working very hard to make sure that this virus doesn’t spread here. Let them know it’s like a really bad cold. Tell them what precautions they can take to stay healthy. And then ask them what they think about what you’ve just told them, so you can correct any misperceptions,” Gurwitch said.
“If you’re watching the news, keep in mind that children are always listening,” she added.
Because this is a virus similar to a cold virus, Gurwitch recommended educating your kids about good infection control procedures.
“Let your kids know what they can do to protect themselves. Wash your hands a lot or use an alcohol-based sanitizer. Cover your mouth when you sneeze by sneezing into the crook of your elbow. Don’t put your hands near your eyes, mouth or nose,” she advised.
Have you discussed the coronavirus with your kids? How did you do so? Please reply using the comments below.