How to Talk to Children About an Infection Outbreak


In today’s world, with technology at the fingertips of almost everyone, children’s access and exposure to information are becoming more and more of a challenge for parents to control. On one hand, we want our children to be informed enough to keep up with the world and their generation that is moving at a faster pace than ever before. But on the other hand, as parents, we cherish the idea of being able to preserve their innocence and protect them as long as we can. When it comes to sharing health information, making sure that our children are well informed is the first step to preventing spread and exposure to infections. For topics like the coronavirus, which is complex even for adults, bringing up the subject to our children can be hard to do.

Psychologists agree that children can understand more than what we may give them credit for. Talking to them about issues in everyday life helps them make informed opinions and decisions outside the house. So how do we talk to children about an infection outbreak?

When talking about coronavirus or any other health outbreak, you may use the following tips:

  • Parents should get the facts right before talking to the children

Speaking to children without enough information will create confusion for both the parent and the children. Learn all you can from reputable sources and experts before talking to the children. Doing your research ahead of time will ensure that you can answer the children’s followup questions without creating tension. It also helps the parent understand their limitation in knowledge about the subject. In this case, it is appropriate to give an “I do not know” or ” let’s find out together” answer.

  • Parents should bring up the conversation at the earliest convenience

When children hear it first at home from their own parents or guardians it gives them the necessary confidence to analyze all the other information that they will hear on the issue. When they have the facts from home, they will be more open to bringing up any questions that may arise at school or with their peers. This gives parents the ability to control and direct what information their children are absorbing.

  • Keep the children engaged during the conversation

The parents must explain the information in terms that the child can understand. Keep in mind the child’s age and developmental level to make sure they understand the basics. Children will inevitably have questions about all the information they are getting. Allow them to ask questions and to address their concerns. Ask them their opinions about the issue to gauge their level of understanding.

  • Avoid panic and provide reassurance

It is a known truth that when mommy or daddy is panicked or stressed out, the children will sense it and feed off of it. Parents should avoid speaking to children in hysteria. Wait until you have a good grasp on your emotions before addressing the children. Stick to the facts and keep it simple. Do not instill fear into the children. Reassure them that people are working hard to protect and prevent the infection from getting worse. Let the children know that this is an open conversation and that you are willing to talk about any other questions or concerns in the future.

  • Provide children with a plan of action

Instead of just unloading information onto the children and leaving it there, try to give them some sense of an action plan. Let them know of ways they can become part of the solution. Teach the children how to properly wash hands with soap and water and tell them when to wash them. Show them the proper sneeze and cough etiquette as well as how to protect themselves in public by minimizing contact. Always emphasize to WASH HANDS often.

Washing Hands

Check out these other articles about how to stay healthy during cold and flu season and tips for how to get through it. Have you taken steps to prepare your children and your family for germ-fighting? How do you talk to your children about it?

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Denise Ingabire Smith
Denise was born and raised in Rwanda, she immigrated to the US in 2007 and settled in Columbus. She attended THE Ohio State University where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Clinical Laboratory Sciences and a Master’s degree in Public Health Epidemiology. GO BUCKS! She fell in love with Columbus, its people, culture and even the crazy Ohio weather. She now resides in Groveport with her husband Joseph, her super active toddler Zelda and her always on-the-go son Jasper, and three fur babies. After having her first child, Denise swapped her microscope to a laptop and became a work at home mom. She is a writer and consultant specializing in simplifying medical and health information and the face behind, where she writes passionately about women’s health, motherhood and lifestyle. She loves spending time with her little family, exploring all the hidden hubs of this beautiful state of Ohio, and trying out new foods.