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The Western Star - 2020-03-25

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Tips for talking to your kids about COVID-19

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ROSIE MULLALEY JUANITA MERCER

Psychologist Dr. Janine Hubbard says there is heightened anxiety and worry among children about COVID-19. Hubbard said the way we speak with children about the issue can alleviate some of those feelings. “First step is ask your kids what they know about it, or what they have heard, because that gives you a great chance to get a sense of their level of understanding, but also any misconceptions they may have heard. So, you can kind of help to clarify that. “And then you want to ask them what they are worried about, because we make assumptions as adults. And kids could be far more concerned about, well, ‘What’s going to happen to my hockey playoffs?’ As opposed to, well, ‘What’s going to happen to Nan and Pop?’ “So, it’s helpful to get a sense as to where their worries are, as opposed to us imposing our thoughts on them.” She said parents and caregivers can remind children that the measures being taken — such as the school district’s cancellation of extracurricular activities between schools — are proactive steps. “We are working to try to improve things, as opposed to being reactive. So, yes, things sound very scary, and we’re doing all kinds of fairly drastic things, but the idea is that we’re doing it to keep us all safe and protected. “It’s almost like you can remind them of when we do all of those fire drills at the beginning of the school year so everybody knows what they need to do to stay safe — it’s kind of an increased version of that almost.” Hubbard said grounding what’s happening in things that children have experienced or understand can be helpful, such as reminding them of a time when someone they knew was sick with the flu, but then they got better. “The biggest thing is letting them know that there are things they can do, there are things in their power and in their control, to try to control things. So, talking about the washing hands, talking about the sneezing and coughing into your sleeve, talking about making sure we’re keeping people safe.” She said parents should also monitor children’s — especially teenagers’ — use of social media and plan activities the family can do together to help alleviate children’s disappointment that some of their other activities are cancelled. Hubbard said parents with children with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and germ phobia should pay close attention and remind children of their coping tools. The Anxiety Canada website has plenty of helpful information, she said.

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