Keeping Them Safe Without Scaring Them Silly: How to Talk to Kids About Swine Flu (page 3)

Keeping Them Safe Without Scaring Them Silly: How to Talk to Kids About Swine Flu

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Updated on May 27, 2014

If getting your child to follow these guidelines seems a challenge, just remember that promoting any type of behavior is a matter of good modeling. “If kids see parents coughing into their shoulder or elbow, it will seem like the normal thing,” Garcia says.

Minimize TV coverage. The information on news shows can cause children unnecessary worry. O’Neill says “parents need to seek credible sources of information, for example, school officials and government spokespersons. Doing so will help both parents and children respond most appropriately.” Garcia says the best thing for parents to do is to “turn off the TV and read a book instead.”

Don’t jump to conclusions. “It was a big concern in the spring when the first reports were that the virus was coming out of Mexico. There was a lot of concern about excessive blaming and bullying towards an ethnic group,” says Garcia, who reminds the public that this is “an equal opportunity virus.” It’s important that children aren’t allowed to gossip about who may or may not have swine flu. O’Neill says parents need to advise children that sharing frightening information that may be inaccurate is wrong. The old maxim, she says, applies here: “If you don’t know it’s true, don’t pass it on.”

In the unfortunate event that your child does contract swine flu, Garcia recommends that parents treat it no differently than how you would treat the regular flu—responding in a common sense way, with lots of reassurances that the child will be okay. “Refer to it as the flu with your child. There won’t be a lot of testing to differentiate swine flu from seasonal flu because the treatment is the same. There will be standard precautions with all of them,” she says, adding that any change in that protocol will be heavily publicized.

The bottom line is that the safety precautions being recommended by the CDC, scary as they may seem, are just that: precautions. Schools are 14 times more crowded than your home environment, and so when it comes to the spread of disease, it’s better to be overprepared than underprepared. The thing to stress to kids, says O’Neill, is that these measures are temporary, but necessary.

Ultimately, if you take a calm, yet prepared stance, your child will take your cue. “Children are really competent and resilient little humans,” Harrison says. “If they are reassured and provided with the basic factual information, they trust the adults around them, and are reassured by them.”

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