How Parents Should Talk To Their Kids About Coronavirus

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Recently, there is so much that is being said on the news about the novel coronavirus and the number of cases are rising steadily. Japan, among many other countries that are fighting aggressively, has taken the drastic step of shutting down schools for a month to control the spread of the virus.  

While the neighbouring Asian countries saw numerous reported infections and multiple cases, including death, there has been an increasing global alarm as the virus spread to  western countries, too.

As each day brings to light new information about coronavirus-infected people being quarantined in countries including the United States, at the time of writing this article, there have been a couple of confirmed cases in India. 

This is the right time to speak to your family members, especially children so that they follow significant precautionary measures to stay healthy and prevent the infection from attacking. Before you do that, here is what you should know.

Coronavirus: Origins

A Coronavirus is a large group of virus strains, of which the SARS-CoV-2 is the recent one. The virus strain “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” causes the disease COVID-19 that is threatening us currently.

Similar to the SARS coronavirus that caused the deadly epidemic that broke out in the year 2003, the recent virus strain is also believed to originate from a bat. While the SARS coronavirus spread from bats to civet cats, MERS coronavirus spread from bats to camels in 2012. The COVID-19 originally infected the people of Wuhan in the seafood and live animal markets, suggesting that the virus first infected animals.

What Do the Experts Say

Although the Wuhan coronavirus exhibits much milder symptoms than SARS or MERS, experts are not sure about how contagious the disease is or how it spreads. However, with this virus, the death count seems to be much larger.

Infected people generally exhibit novel coronavirus symptoms that are almost the same as those of the common cold: runny nose, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, and fever. Typically, these symptoms are not distinguishable from similar respiratory infections. Reports suggest that older adults with coexisting health conditions like diabetes or heart disease are more susceptible. 

Going by the historical perspective, the recent virus is also a threat to people all over the world, not just Southeast Asia, because of the ease of global travel. So, as a precaution, many countries now have medical centres to detect and isolate patients with a fever or respiratory symptoms, if they have recently travelled to Wuhan or came into contact with someone who recently travelled there.

How Should Parents Help Kids Understand About Coronavirus

Many countries are now screening flights to and from China and the government is suggesting wearing face masks while they are out in public. Still, there is a risk that anyone may contract the infection. In such cases, how can parents explain to their children about the disease and what proper precautions they should take?

The first thing to do is not panic. 

First and foremost, children getting infected is very rare and until now, those who got infected experienced only milder symptoms. Compared to this, kids get sick and get hospitalized due to the influenza virus. Reports like these should keep things in perspective.

Here is how you can brief your children about the disease:

Learn What They Know

Use age-appropriate discussions while handling sensitive subjects like these. If your children come across the news on the TV or they have the information from their peers, try to find out what they already know. If they know nothing, then it is better not to worry them. Instead, advise them to follow stricter hygiene practices.

Reduce Their Fears

If some friend has scared your child that they may die, do not dismiss their fear as something silly. First, hear them out and then explain how scientists all over the world are trying to find ways to get rid of the disease. Assure them the best healthy habits will keep them and you safe. Help them calm down and lead their normal routines. 

Teach the Importance of Good Hygiene

You may have cultivated the habit of washing their hands before and after meals and after they use the bathroom, but now is the time to emphasize it. Teach them to cover themselves when they cough or sneeze, and not to touch anything after blowing their nose without washing their hands clean. 

Prefer hand washing to a  hand sanitizer as they may be less effective if they do not fully evaporate and small kids tend to touch other children or their toys in the meantime. They also must wash for the right amount of time, for about 20 seconds.

Parents Must Not Get Scared Themselves

Finally, it is up to the parents to make their kids feel at ease, even if the school closures start happening here. Tell them that it is a great way to spend time with their family and it is a good thing that the schools are closed due to nasty bugs running around. 

Also, this may be an excellent opportunity for them to focus on good hobbies for school students that can, in turn, help improve their studies. Arts and crafts, music, sports, or dance can take their mind off of potential diseases and infections. Encourage them to get more exercise to improve their immunity and they can stay occupied and process their anxiety.

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