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The ultimate kids’ guide to the new coronavirus

A new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 is spreading across the globe. Kids like you are likely wondering, “Will school be closed?” and, “Should I be worried about getting sick?” To help guide you through a confusing situation, here are answers from science to all the questions you may have. For a visual look at coronavirus science, check out our “just for kids” coronavirus infographic. And here’s a round-up of activities and online resources for homebound kids.

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FREE RESOURCES

courtesy of Stony Brook Childrens and PBS Kids

For school-age children, ages 7 to 11

  • Take your cues from your child. They already have opinions and possibly fears about what the virus means for them and their family.
  • Read up on ways to provide age-appropriate information. Try a website like “KIDSHEALTH.ORG” for ways to explain a virus. Talk about symptoms and reassure your child that you are being very careful about hygiene, health and safety.
  • Ask them what they have learned in school about the coronavirus. Ask them what they have overheard from adults. Then ask them what their friends have told them. Compare the information and ask them what they think is true. Correct exaggerations or misinformation.
  • Limit news shows and internet media that can be upsetting to children. Remember, even if they are not actively watching, they may still overhear the news, even from another room.
  • Encourage children to not listen to social media and to come to you or a trusted adult like a teacher with their questions.
  • Children may worry that family members, especially you, will get sick. Tell them what you are doing for yourself and for them to stay healthy and well.
  • Create opportunities for arts and crafts, family game time, baking cookies, fun movies with popcorn and other activities to structure the long days at home.

Preteens and teens, ages 12 and up

  • Take your cues from your child. They already have opinions and possibly fears about what the virus means for them and their family. If you also have younger children, enlist your older kids in explaining and helping to keep younger kids calm. Reassure them by talking about your own efforts to stay safe and healthy.
  • Provide age-appropriate information. Visit websites such as KIDSHEALTH.ORG, which has a section just for teens, or CDC.GOV with your older child to get reliable information.
  • Ask your children what they have learned in school, from adults and from the media about the coronavirus. Then ask them what their friends have told them. Compare the information and ask them what they think is true. Correct exaggerations or misinformation. Ask for their help with younger siblings and peers.
  • Older kids need contact with peers. If this contact is online, ask them to be “keepers of the truth” and help correct misinformation that peers may be sharing.
  • Reinforce proper handwashing techniques and hygiene practices. Remind them that germs can sit on plastic surfaces, like video game controllers, for several hours or days. These surfaces should be wiped down with a disinfectant.
  • Ask older kids to help model the right behaviors (social distancing, washing hands for 20 seconds…) to set a good example for younger siblings and peers.
  • Older kids also need their families. Encourage them to participate in family activities, such as games, movies and projects.
  • Encourage them to bring their fears and questions to you and not to trust everything they read on the computer or hear from others.

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