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What should you tell your kids about Ebola?

You do your best to protect your kids and sometimes that may mean sheltering them from exposure to worrisome conditions in the world, however at a certain age you get to a point when you can no longer hide the woes of the world. They hear about things at school, they may be talking about current events in class, they see it on television or on the internet, doesn’t matter how they hear, the point is that they do. Each child is different just like each adult and if you try and keep this in the back of your head it can give you some perspective on what to tell your children.

Currently there is a lot of talk in the news about the Ebola Virus and for many people it is a news story that has to be covered but doesn’t really cause them any stress or concern. For other folks, who may worry more about those types of things this can be a constant distress for them. Children are no different – they are adults in the making after all. Children who worry about germs will grow up to be adults who worry about germs.

So what do you do if your child is freaked out about germs and Ebola? Definitely be honest. They are hearing stuff from other sources so if you are lying or fluffing their concerns off that is not going to help them wrap their heads around how they can handle this situation. Tell them that the threat of Ebola getting to the general public (you) is extremely low, probably lower than getting hit by lightening. Just because one hospital in Texas botched up protocol does not mean we are at risk and in fact because those things happened everyone else is tightening their belts to make sure it doesn’t happen anywhere else. Depending on the age of the child would certainly depend on how long the conversation is. An older child or teen will have a lot more questions and concerns, whereas a young child may just be worried that you are going to get sick and die. You will need to use your judgement on how to move forward accordingly.

My second piece of advice is geared to anxiety relief. If your child is dealing with a lot of anxiety or is absolutely fixated on this (or anything else) you should really start teaching them how to deal with anxiety. Adults have anxiety, we meditate, we exercise, we talk to someone. There are many ways to help alleviate anxiety. You just need to find what works best for your child. My favorite meditation/relaxation technique with my kids when they were younger was to imagine they were building something (a park, a castle, a house) out of candy. What would they use to build all the different elements with? How big is it? What does it look like? It should be something to think about that would engage the child’s mind completely. You will likely have to help them for a while to demonstrate this technique, suggest candy building materials or other structures that need their attention. If they are fully focused on candy land, before long they have gotten a nice retreat from the big scary world and have calmed down enough to go to bed for the night or function normally. You need to gear this to the child’s age, so if you are dealing with an older child candy land might be too childish. Pick something that interests your child, lego, fashion, amusement parks, etc. If this isn’t your child’s cup of tea, than try something else, what works for you?

Candy land may seem like something very silly and childish but really what you are teaching them is a lifelong skill of how to cope with anxiety and stress. None of us get through life without anxiety and stress so if you can help your child to be a master at candy land building you have just given them one incredibly amazing asset that they will use for the rest of their life!

dr

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