Talking to Children about the Flu
My child has been asking questions about the flu. What do I tell her? I don’t want to scare her, but I also want to her to be careful. What do I do?
Talking to children about avoiding illness is a delicate balance. We want them to have accurate information, but we don’t want to frighten them. When an illness like flu predominates the headlines, questions from children may be more prevalent. Children sense our concerns. Some possible answers to a few of the questions our children may be asking follow.
What is Flu?
Consider the age of the child before you respond. Children under the age of five have heard the words “flu”, probably are curious and want a little bit of factual information. Children five and over may want and be ready for more detail. For the younger group, you can simply respond that it is a kind of sickness that some people are getting right now. For older children, you can say, “Some people are getting sick from the flu. Doctors and people who know a lot about children and families are working hard to stop more people from getting sick.”
How do you get Flu?
“There is a very tiny thing called a virus which can make you sick. But one way to stop the virus from making you sick is to wash your hands really well. That can make the virus go away. Remember how we sometimes sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” when we wash our hands? That is to help us remember that we have to sing for a long time to keep the virus away – we have to wash for the whole song.”
What will happen if I get the Flu?
“You will have to stay home from school or child care and we will take very good care of you. We will have to visit or call the doctor to find out when you can go back to school or child care.”
I have a cough – do I have Flu?
“Usually there are a couple of ways you don’t feel well when you have the flu – like a runny nose, a fever and a cough. If I think you might have the flu, I will call your doctor and she will take very good care of you.”
Remember to work towards that delicate balance of giving just enough information – don’t overload children with more facts than they are asking for.