Today, my children came home and asked me about “swine flu“. They wanted to know what words like “pandemic” meant. For a moment, I was shocked, and then I began to process what they were asking. It’s a good thing to discuss the news with your children in an age appropriate fashion, and this was certainly applicable in this case. How exactly does a parent discuss sobering news issues with their children in an age appropriate fashion? How do you do so without scaring your kids?
Don’t Give Out More Information Than Needed
It’s best to keep your answers simple and factual. Too much information can overwhelm kids. If your child wants more information, he or she will usually ask you another question, which you can answer in a simple and factual manner.
For example, if your child asks what the swine flu is, you might say, it’s a type of flu. If your child asks why people are so worried about the swine flu, you can again answer in a factual way.
Of course, I’m assuming that your child is a “tween” or younger. Teens are able to process more information and they are also able to emotionally handle difficult situations. Again, keeping your answers factual is the best way to answer your teen’s questions.
It’s also important to address your child’s concerns without “feeding into” the worry.
For example, if your child asks what will happen if people in your area get sick, you might discuss the fact that authorities are developing a plan of action to keep everyone safe. You also might discuss things that your family can do to stay healthy which include washing your hands, eating good food, and making sure that you get your rest.
Limit TV Exposure
Yes, it is good for your children to be exposed to reality. However, reality in small doses is best when they are young! There is no need to tune in to multiple programs which discuss the flu situation in a dramatic way–at least in front of the kids.
Again, I’m not advocating hiding reality from your kids, I’m advocating exposing your children to reality in small, manageable doses. It is natural for a parent to wish to protect their children from the harsh realities that are a part of life. However, eventually, kids will grow up. Shielding them from the realities of life and over protecting them will only mean that the transition to adulthood will be that much more difficult for them.