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    Tips for Talking With Your Children about COVID-19

    There's a lot of news coverage about the outbreak of COVID-19 and it can be overwhelming for parents and frightening to kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents and others who work closely with children to filter information and talk about it in a way that their child can understand.

    These tips have been adapted from: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Talking with Children: Tips for Caregivers, Parents, and Teachers During Infectious Disease Outbreaks. 

    For Very Young Children

    Very young children may express anxiety and stress by going back to thumb sucking or wetting the bed at night. They may fear sick- ness, strangers, darkness, or monsters. It is fairly common for preschool children to be- come clingy with a parent, caregiver, or teacher or to want to stay in a place where they feel safe. They may express their under- standing of the outbreak repeatedly in their play or tell exaggerated stories about it. Some children’s eating and sleeping habits may change. They also may have aches and pains that cannot be explained.

    • Infants and Toddlers (0–2 years old): Cannot understand that something bad in the world is happening, but they know when their caregiver is upset. They may start to show the same emotions as their caregivers, or they may act differently, like crying for no reason or withdrawing from people and not playing with their toys.
    • Children (3–5 years old): May be able to understand the effects of an outbreak. If they are very upset by news of the out- break, they may have trouble adjusting to change and loss. They may depend on the adults around them to help them feel better.
    • Give 3-5 year old's a lot of emotional and verbal support.
    • Get down to their eye level and speak in a calm, gentle voice using words they can understand.
    • Tell them that you always care for them and will continue to take care of them, so they feel safe.
    • Keep normal routines, such as eating dinner together and having a consistent bedtime.

    A Note of Caution: Be careful not to pressure children to talk about an outbreak or join in expressive activities. While most children will easily talk about the outbreak, some may become frightened. Some may even feel more anxiety and stress if they talk about it, listen to others talk about it, or look at artwork related to the out- break. Allow children to remove themselves from these activities and monitor them for signs of distress.

    For Elementary-age and Older Children

    Simple reassurance. Remind children that researchers and doctors are learning as much as they can, as quickly as they can, about the virus and are taking steps to keep everyone safe.

    Give them control. It's also a great time to remind your children of what they can do to help – washing their hands often, coughing into a tissue or their sleeves, and getting enough sleep.

    Watch for signs of anxiety. Children may not have the words to express their worry, but you may see signs of it. They may get cranky, be more clingy, have trouble sleeping, or seem distracted. Keep the reassurance going and try to stick to your normal routines.

    Monitor their media. Keep young children away from frightening images they may see on TV, social media, computers, etc. For older children, talk together about what they are hearing on the news and correct any misinformation or rumors you may hear.

    Be a good role model. COVID-19 doesn't discriminate and neither should we. While COVID- 19 started in Wuhan, China, it doesn't mean that having Asian ancestry – or any other ancestry – makes someone more susceptible to the virus or more contagious. Stigma and discrimination hurt everyone by creating fear or anger towards others. When you show empathy and support to those who are ill, your children will too.

    Want resources to share with your children? Here’s an informative graphic resource from NPR.

    Living our Values: Resources to combat racism, bias, and discrimination

    Our community values are tested in times like these. We must continue to be united and support each other as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) becomes more widespread. In schools, we will continue to demonstrate compassion and care as our greater community navigates this global health situation.

    We are aware of reports that some of our Asian students have been targeted and discriminated against in connection to COVID-19. This is unacceptable and contrary to our values of racial equity and social justice. In SPS, we are committed to welcoming, safe, and inclusive schools, and we do not tolerate hate speech or acts of discrimination.

    Help us prevent discrimination or stigmatization by sharing accurate information. COVID-19 infection is not connected to any race, ethnicity, or nationality. Misinformation about coronavirus disease 2019 can create fear and hostility that harms people and makes it harder to keep everyone healthy. Public Health Seattle and King County has provided resources to address and prevent.