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A couple of days ago, I was asked: “How to talk to kids about the Coronavirus?” I’ve pondered that question a lot since then, and here’s my take on the subject.
Let me first say that I’m certainly NOT the foremost authority on the subject. I’ve worked for over ten years in emergency departments in Finland as a general practitioner and talked to kids about health problems. I’ve also read many books on the subject since becoming a father and starting DadProgress.com. All in all, this is just my personal opinion, and you can take it with a pinch of salt.
What Should you as a Parent Know About the Coronavirus?
Before you can authoritatively (and you must!) speak about the topic with your kids, learn five key points:
- Viruses are infectious agents and antibiotics don’t work against them (antibiotics stop only bacterial diseases)
- There are many species that are divided into groups. Coronaviruses are a large group that contains many species (like the NEW COVID-19)
- Covid-19 is transmitted by human to human contact, and that’s why it’s essential to avoid crowded places (at the moment of writing) and regularly wash hands. The virus seems to be very contagious
- Most COVID-19 cases are mild, and many people may not even notice it
For example, in Estonia, one young man had only fewer for two days and no other symptoms. He had been in a volleyball tournament, and some contesters came from Italy.
- At the moment, the mortality rate is probably less than 1%. The mortality rate of annual influenza is about 0,1%. That said, COVID-19 is not nearly as deadly as the Spanish flu about 100 years ago, which had a mortality rate of around 10%. Please note that these numbers are only my crude calculations. I’ve also used Korean data for the current true mortality rate because they are testing extensively. In Finland, for example, they are testing only people arriving from risk regions and very ill patients. As a result, the statistical rate is higher than the real one (most mild cases aren’t simply recorded)
How to Talk to Kids About Corona Virus?
First, ask yourself if you even should talk to your kids about the COVID-19. It’s your job as a parent to protect little ones from the harsh world.
If his daycare or school got canceled, let her carelessly enjoy the free time.
That said, if your kid starts to ask about the subject or you feel that his mature enough, then it’s best to be honest.
I recommend arranging a family meeting so that all can discuss the topic together and create a family consensus. This will automatically help to deal with misinformation from other sources like school.
It would be best if you did not lie to your kids and keep things simple. Your main goal is to calm your little ones and show that you’re in charge (even if you don’t feel like you are).
I usually tell my tiny patients this: “People are worried about a NEW virus that causes bad flu, but you have NOTHING TO WORRY about as you’re young and healthy. The most important part is to regularly WASH your hands and NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE”
With this one sentence, you tell your kids everything they should know:
- People are so worried because it’s a new thing and we don’t yet quite understand it
- Your main goal is to calm your little ones even if means sugarcoating the facts a little
- Giving them some directions like washing hands will help to calm them further