Talking to Your Kids about Ebola
Kids are perceptive — even more so than many adults, most of the time. They pick up on more than adults realize. Chances are very good that they’ve seen or heard something about Ebola on the news over the last few months. Maybe they’ve even asked you questions about it already. You may be unsure about how best to address such a grownup topic. Well, you’re in luck. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just came out with some guidelines and suggestions for you.
Start with asking your kids what they know about Ebola. When they answer, you want to keep your ears open for any fears, concerns, or misinformation (which, of course, means you have to know the facts yourself). If they share anything that’s incorrect about Ebola, you can gently correct them, putting it in a way that they understand.
If they have any questions for you, be as simple and direct as possible in your answers. You don’t have to beat around the bush or make up some big giant fairy tale. Kids can handle simple truths. And especially where death is concerned, you don’t want to tell them “and then she went away,” or something. You don’t want to scare them into thinking that whenever someone leaves somewhere, that they might not come back, either. You can say simply, “And then she died.”
Be sure to reassure them. You should tell them that even though a lot of people in West Africa are very sick with Ebola, not very many people in the United States are. Their worried feelings are valid, so don’t tell them not to worry; just encourage them to keep talking about their feelings to you. Talking helps them process, and you can even model expressing concern about it by saying something like, “I feel sad about the people in West Africa who are sick, too.” If they aren’t a talker, maybe something else can help them sort through their feelings, like journaling, drawing pictures, or playing.
If you need some ideas for answers to common questions that your kid might ask you, visit the CDC website.