With stories about the new coronavirus outbreak flooding the media, it's easy to get scared. And if you're scared, your kids might be, too -- but they don't have to be.
Honesty and directness are key when talking to your child about this new virus, said Diane Bales, associate professor of human development and family science at the University of Georgia, in Athens.
To relieve your child's fears about the virus, she recommends these steps:
Monitor your child's social media.
Not all information your child receives will be accurate and reliable. Keep an eye on what they're watching or reading, so you can put information in context.
Remind your child that coronavirus isn't widespread in the United States.
Don't downplay the outbreak's effect on China, but do explain the scope of the coronavirus. Remind your child that it's unlikely he or she will come in contact with the virus.
Explain the situation in ways he or she will understand.
"Very young children who don't have the basic ability to understand how germs are spread are just going to be scared by this information," Bales said in a university news release. Adjust your explanations to their level of development. Explain that they won't automatically contract the virus and there are ways to stay healthy.
Give your child a sense of control.
Teach your child general hygiene like hand washing and sneezing into their elbows. "It gives them a feeling of 'there's this thing out there that's scary but there are things I can do to prevent getting it,'" Bales said.
Emphasize that it's important to stay home if you're sick.
Remember the consequences of sending your child to school when they're sick. Teach children the importance of limiting contact with people when they are ill to avoid spreading disease.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.