If you are a parent of school-age children, you may have heard some talk coming home about COVID-19, or coronavirus. We don’t watch news with our kids, but mine have already gotten a snippet here or there from parent conversation, the radio in the car, or kids talking at school. They’ve had questions. Worries. I’m sure, like me, your kneejerk reaction might be to dismiss this as “everything’s fine” or “you’re safe, that won’t happen here.” I believe anything we don’t talk about speaks volumes to kids. When presented with untouchable topics, kids will fill in the blanks, often creating their own worst case scenario. The kid thought process goes “if we don’t talk about it, it must be really bad.”
So how to handle the current infections disease epidemic with children? Everything I’ve seen and read speaks to good hygiene. Wash your hands. Avoid sick people. Stay home if you’re sick. The same rules for preventing influenza or any other illness apply here.
I love the book Germs are not for Sharing by Elizabetha Verdick that I think fits nicely into the current discussion for talking to kids about infectious disease. It’s geared toward preschoolers but I think even younger kids up to mid-elementary could find this useful. I used to read it to kids in elementary classrooms and I’ve read it to my own kids. The book sticks to a positive and helpful message…germs are everywhere, they’re not all bad, but we should work to keep ours to ourselves because some of them can make us sick.
If your kids are asking about coronavirus, this might be a helpful tool. It goes into the basics of proper handwashing and highlights places where germs tend to hang out. The pictures are engaging and kid-friendly. Even the germs have a funny cartoonish fuzz-ball appearance, often doing funny things like wearing a scuba mask while being washed down the drain.
Bonus is at the back of the book there are grown up tips for talking about germs. If you’re at a loss with younger children asking about sickness, this is a great place to start. Remember that it’s ok to talk about worries with kids. Helping them feel empowered that they have ways to stay healthy is a good place to start. Regarding coronavirus, at my house we’re going to stick with the message that 1) the illness is not widespread in our area now, 2) springtime tends to be a healthier season when we can play outside more and hopefully spread fewer germs, 3) most people who do get the virus recover, 4) and kids have ways to keep themselves healthy (i.e. tools from Germs are not for Sharing).
Germs are not for Sharing paperback can be found here
And the board book here
Disclaimer: This post is no way intended to be a replacement for mental health therapy but rather basic tools for parents. If your child is worrying excessively in a way that is interfering with school or home life, reach out to a therapist for more help and support.