Fig1. A picture from the article ‘Can your child contract the coronavirus?’ from the ABC news 

Recently, children are still playing outside with their friends which they may not be fully aware of or know how seriously to take it – as it begins to affect their daily lives with school closures, events being cancelled frequently, and having restrictions on travel.

Many parents are now deciding how to talk to their children about the virus. Some said they worry that talking about it could make their kids more anxious or fearful, while others say that they are checking in daily with their children. 

For most people including children, the new coronavirus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, results in only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. According to the World Health Organization, which has declared the outbreak a pandemic, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

Child psychology experts’ advice is to be reassuring, focus on proactive steps and do research to truthfully answer children’s questions.

“It’s important to reassure children, to ask whether they have questions and to stress safety”, said Dr James Howard,  a clinical psychologist at the nonprofit Child Mind Institute. The Child Mind Institute is an independent nonprofit organization for children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders. The ‘Child Mind Institute’ and the ‘Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’ both offer tips on talking to children. 

The advice that the ‘Child Mind Institute’ has given is first, to not be afraid to discuss the coronavirus. “You take on the news and you’re the person who filters the news to your kid”, said Janine Domingues, a child psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. The second piece of advice is to be developmentally appropriate. Rather than volunteering for too much information, try to answer your child’s questions honestly and clearly. More advice is to be reassuring. Since children are very egocentric, hearing about the coronavirus on the news may be enough to make them seriously worry that they’ll catch it. It’s helpful to reassure your child about how rare the coronavirus actually is(compared to flu, which is much more common) and that kids actually seem to have milder symptoms.

Dr H.Cody Meissner, chief of the division of pediatric infectious disease at Tufts University School of Medicine and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee in Infectious Diseases, said the first thing for parents to tell their kids is that it is really rare for children to get sick from the virus. He also said, when they do get sick, it is fairly mild. But kids can be carriers. 

One way to talk about the virus is to teach the kids to wash their hands. Most of the virus is spread due to hands. The virus enters the body through the mucus membrane and it transmits from person to person generally by touching our eyes, nose or mouth or by inhaling droplets directly from someone who is sneezing and coughing. Due to shaking hands with someone who’s got the virus, it has a high chance of me transmitting the virus to my face. The best way for the general public to protect itself against coronavirus is really careful hand hygiene. This means washing your hands with either soap and water or alcohol gel if soap and water are not available.WHO says most people don’t need face masks unless they are sick or taking care of a person with a suspected coronavirus infection. This fact must be known to children as well as the parent for the prevention of coronavirus, rather than trying to hide the seriousness of coronavirus to your children.

Jaywon Yoon
Jaywon Yoon

Student of NLCS Jeju
Chair of NLCS Jeju Youth Psychology Society

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