Communicable Disease Prevention & Reporting
How to talk to your kids about Ebola
Child psychologist Georgette Constantinou shares these tips for parents who want to ease their children's concerns about the Ebola virus:
- Keep calm while discussing this topic with your children and use age appropriate language.
- Listen to them and gauge what they are hearing and are worried about, and acknowledge their fears.
- Reassure them that it is extremely unlikely that he/she or your family will be affected by the Ebola virus.
- Tell your child that you are there for them and will take care of them as you always do, and remind them that you have always addressed any of their illnesses and gotten them the necessary help.
- Explain to your children that you are the parent and it is your job to keep them safe.
Additional tips from the American Psychological Association include:
- Keep things in perspective. Limit worry and agitation by lessening the time you and your family spend watching or listening to upsetting media coverage. Although you'll want to keep informed — especially if you have loved ones in affected countries — remember to take a break from watching the news and focus on the things that are positive in your life and things you have control over.
- Get the facts. Gather information that will help you accurately determine risks so that you can take reasonable precautions, if appropriate. Find a credible source you can trust such as your physician, a local or state public health agency or national and international resources such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.
- Stay healthy. The risk of Ebola transmission is low. A healthy lifestyle — including proper diet and exercise — is your best defense against any threat. Adopting hygienic habits such as washing your hands regularly will also minimize your exposure to all types of germs and disease sources. Eat healthy, avoid alcohol and drugs and take a walk or exercise. A healthy body can have a positive impact on your thoughts and emotions.
- Keep connected. Maintaining social networks and activities can help maintain a sense of normalcy, and provide valuable outlets for sharing feelings and relieving stress. This may also be an ideal time to become more involved with your community by receiving and sharing effective information obtained from reliable sources.
- Seek additional help. Individuals who feel an overwhelming nervousness, a lingering sadness or other prolonged reaction that adversely affects their life, work or relationships should consult with a trained and experienced mental health professional. Psychologists can help people deal with extreme stress. These professionals work with individuals to help them find constructive ways to manage adversity. The SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline is another resource for people experiencing signs of distress related to the Ebola outbreak. This helpline provides 24/7 year round crisis counseling and support at 1-800-985-5990.
The American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry also has some helpful resources and tips.
Adapted from the Akron Children's Hospital website