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Talking with Children: Tips for Caregivers and Parents

Provide age-appropriate information when talking with students about COVID-19:

  • Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should balance COVID-19 facts with appropriate reassurances that their schools and homes are safe and that adults are there to help keep them healthy and to take care of them if they do get sick.
  • Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what will happen if COVID-19 comes to their school or community. They may need assistance separating reality from rumor and fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to prevent germs from spreading.
  • Upper middle school and high school students are able to discuss the issue in more in-depth and can be referred directly to appropriate sources of COVID-19 facts. Provide honest, accurate, and factual information about the current status of COVID-19. Having such knowledge can help them feel a sense of control.

Staff: It is okay if you don't have answers. Be calm, honest, and only give factual information.

Suggested points to emphasize when talking to children

  • Adults at home and school are taking care of your health and safety. If you have concerns, please talk to an adult you trust.
  • Not everyone will get coronavirus (COVID-19). School and health officials are being especially careful to make sure as few people as possible get sick.
  • It is important that all students treat each other with respect and not jump to conclusions about who may or may not have COVID-19.  Be mindful of stereotyping and potential for bullying.
  • Some internet information will be inaccurate. Only view  trustworthy sites that are grounded in evidence based medical practices like the CDC, and  Pima County Health Department,

What you can do to stay healthy and avoid spreading COVID-19:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash immediately.
  • Cough into your elbow or clothing if you do not have a tissue. If you forget and cough into your hand remember to wash immediately
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water (20 seconds).
  • If you don't have soap, use hand sanitizer (60–95% alcohol based).
  • Frequently touched objects and surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. At school this is the job of trained staff, but if you are at home you may be asked to help clean.
  • Don't share your water bottle or food with others to avoid spreading germs.

How COVID-19 Spreads:

  • COVID-19 spreads primarily the same way the common cold or flu spreads, by respiratory droplets produced when someone coughs or sneezes and then transfers the droplet to another person by touching them.
  • COVID-19 also lives on surfaces so if you touch a surface with the virus and then touch your face you are exposing yourself to the virus.
  • People who are most at risk of infection with COVID-19 are those who have been in close contact (within about 6 feet) of someone who the virus.
  • People are most contagious when they have symptoms.
  • Some spread of the virus might be possible before a person has symptoms, although this is not the main way it spreads.

The symptoms of COVID-19:

The CDC believes these symptoms may appear in a few days after being exposed to someone with the COVID-19 virus or as long as 14 days after exposure:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness for breath

Most people (about 80%) have symptoms similar to having a cold. Others may have more severe symptoms involving respiratory problems requiring medical management.

Children seem to be the least effected, either not getting sick or experiencing very mild symptoms.

Wrapping up the conversation:

  • Ask several questions to reinforce the teaching points:
    • How long do you wash your hands? (Answer: At least 20 seconds, or the amount of time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song, slowly, twice.)
    • Is it OK to share drinks, water bottle or food? (Answer: No.)
    • Do we do these things all the time to stay healthy or just for COVID-19? (Answer: All the time to stay healthy.)
  • Ask if there are any other questions.  Feel free to contact your school Health Office if there is a question that stumps you.
  • End with reassurance that there are people working to keep all of us safe and well.

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