What should I tell the kids?
School is closed. Of course, the kids want to know why? What should you be telling them so that they are not scared to death. Be guided by two basic principles.
The first one is always tell your kids the truth. There are multiple benefits to that plan. You don’t need to remember near as much stuff if you only have one version to remember. And you will not have to backtrack about what you said. You also want to set an example and model the behavior you want your kids to show as they grow and get older, particularly in their teenage years. If you are always honest with your kids they will learn that honesty is not just the best policy but that it is also a safe one. So when they are older and you tell them that it is ok to tell you anything and that you will be there for them, they will believe you.
So tell the truth. How that truth is phased will depend on the age of the child. For young children, explain that there is a flu or virus going around and a lot of people are getting it. If the kids are older, the truth can be more expansive. Older kids can understand that because this is a new virus there aren’t many people who have had it so there isn’t much immunity to it. It is also important that older students understand this is serious stuff and not a time for fun and frolic in large groups. You should also tell all kids what their responsibility is to themselves, their family and to the community at large. This is a good time to teach responsible behavior.
Which brings me to the second basic guideline. Keep this thing in perspective. Don’t scare the kids or yourself to death. Yes this is serious. And yes people are dying of this virus. But lots of people have also been dying of the seasonal flu for years. In Maryland this past February, 38 people died of the plain old seasonal flu. The difference is that each time someone died an announcement was not made on TV, radio and other media. This virus is also more frightening because it is hitting in every state at the same time. It is also frightening because contrary to initial thoughts it affects all age groups. And the fight against it is causing businesses to close and people to practice social distancing. That is particularly hard for teenagers. So the fight against COVID-19 is a serious one. People who have issues with anxiety are going to be particularly hard hit. It is important to strike a balance between “take this seriously” and “be scared to death”. People feel better if they are given something to do in an emergency. Probably explains why in old movies, men are sent for hot water and towels during when a woman is delivering a baby. There is a line in the musical The Sound of Music that is appropriate to this situation, “I am someone older and wiser, and I will take care of you.” It sounds better when it is sung, but the message is the same. Tell your kids the truth, just don’t scare them to death. Leave that to the media.