Column: How to talk to your kids about coronavirus

Most children have already heard about coronavirus, but many are scared and confused. It’s important for children to be well informed and have fact-based information.

Here is some advice from Joselin Joma, M.D., a pediatrician with Ascension Medical Group:

  • Stay calm and be well informed.
  • If your child asks about something and you don’t know the answer, say so. Use the question as a chance to find out together. Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for up-to-date, reliable information about coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Take cues from your child, invite them to tell you anything they may have heard from family or friends.
  • Keep your own anxiety in check. If you are feeling anxious or panicked, that is not the appropriate time to discuss what may be happening with your kids.
  • Keep family routines in your household as close to normal as you can. Regular mealtimes and bedtimes are important
  • Give your child specific things they can do to feel in control.
  • Teach kids that washing their hands helps stop viruses from spreading to others. Remind kids to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or the length of two “Happy Birthday” songs). Be a good role model and let your kids see you washing your hands often!
  • Teach children to cover their mouths with a tissue when they sneeze or cough and throw away the tissue immediately, or sneeze or cough into the bend of their elbow. Do not share food or drinks.
    Practice giving fist or elbow bumps instead of hugs or handshakes. Fewer germs are spread this way.
  • Try an at-home activity to visualize infection control or hand washing. You can use a bowl of water with some black pepper that can visualize how soap keeps germs, bacteria, and viruses away.

Joselin Joma, MD, is a pediatrician with Ascension Medical Group in Stevens Point