Talking to Children About the Swine Flu
“My child has been asking questions about the Swine Flu. What do I tell her? I don’t want to scare her, but I also want 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 Swine Flu predominates the headlines, questions from children may be more prevalent. Children sense our concerns. Following are some possible answers to a few of the questions our children may be asking.
What is Swine Flu?
Consider the age of the child before you respond. Children under the age of five who have heard the words “swine 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 Swine 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 Swine Flu? Can I get Swine 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.”
Why is it called Swine Flu?
“Swine is another name for pigs. At first, scientists thought this virus was the same one that could make pigs sick. Now they think that it may be different from the virus that makes pigs sick, but people still are calling it Swine Flu.”
What will happen if I get Swine 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 Swine Flu?
“Usually there are a couple of ways you don’t feel well when you have Swine Flu—like a runny nose, a fever, and a cough. If I think you might have Swine Flu, I will call your doctor and she will take very good care of you.”
Why did they close my school/center?
“Someone at your school/center has Swine Flu. People at your school thought that fewer people would get sick if your school/center was closed for several days because then the virus couldn’t spread from one person to another.”
Remember to work towards that delicate balance of giving just enough information … don’t overload children with more facts than they are asking for.