For Families > Keeping Kids Healthy > Raising Healthy Kids

Talking to kids about Swine (H1N1) Flu

by Anita Gurian, PhD

Introduction

Kids are being flooded with media accounts of flu victims, school closures, vaccines, protective masks, and other details connected with Swine (H1N1) Flu that may seem scary. Since the virus has been the focus of extensive news coverage, it is a good idea to open up a discussion with your children, whatever their age, even if they don’t bring the subject up.

Staying Calm

Children are quick to respond to the mood of their parents, so it’s important to transmit a sense of calm, control and knowledge of the facts. Let kids know you think their questions are important.

Be honest and realistic. Help children feel secure by assuring them everyone – schools, doctors, government, and parents – is working to make sure that they don’t get sick.

Keep the information appropriate for the age of the child and correct any misinformation or rumors they may have picked up from others. Use words and concepts your child can understand. For younger children, for example, explain that there are germs that can make people sick. Older children may want more information about viruses and other technical information.

Stress the advice for prevention – washing hands frequently, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, keeping your hands away from your mouth, eyes and nose, not sharing drinks, putting toys or things in your mouth and staying home if sick

Children may worry about their own safety and the safety of their family. Help them put things in perspective. In answering questions, rely on up-to-date information from the proper authorities including medical professionals and government officials.

If a child becomes sick with a run-of-the-mill childhood illness such as a sore throat or stomach ache, he or she may worry unnecessarily. Assure them that their parents and doctors will take care of them. Children of different ages and personality styles will handle stresses in their own way. Be alert for signs that anxieties or fears may be getting in the way of a child’s ability to enjoy usual school and family activities. If a child doesn’t respond to normal reassurance consider consulting a mental health professional.

Date Published: May 27, 2009