Public health emergencies like coronavirus (COVID-19) can cause uncertainty and fear for adults. Those feelings can be even greater among children as they become aware of what’s happening.
Kids will be hearing things about coronavirus on television, at school and from other sources. Experts say it’s best to address any concern that kids have, even young children who might not understand what’s happening but still have worries. But what is the best way to handle their concerns?
Erik Hogen, MD, a pediatrician at Scripps Clinic Rancho Bernardo, says it’s important to have an honest discussion with them using language they understand. This can help ease their anxiety and stop the spread of any misinformation they may be hearing.
“The key is to be transparent and have an open dialogue,” says Dr. Hogen. “It’s good to proactively have that conversation with our families. Stay well informed, and provide accurate and up to date information, including precautions. Use information that you trust to your advantage in these discussions.”
If you’re not sure how to begin the conversation, Dr. Hogen says a great way to start is by asking them directly about the questions they have.
“It’s important to give them a sounding board,” he notes. “‘What are you hearing? Are you afraid, and why?’ They’ll feel better that they’re being heard and understood, and it will help assuage any fears they have.”
Health emergencies can also bring about additional stress, for children and parents. Don’t forget about your personal wellness during this time when it’s important to stay healthy. Whether it’s working out, eating right or taking a mental health break, it all plays a role in your overall well-being.
Misinformation can be a source of additional fear, which can end up leading to more stress. Dr. Hogen encourages people to stay informed, and listen to what’s being put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health care systems, such as Scripps (see our coronavirus page).
“Get your information from a trusted source,” Dr. Hogen says. “Then you can feel confident in the information.”