Allay children’s fears about flu

Linda Benedict, Merrill, Thomas A.  |  6/2/2009 9:41:37 PM

With flu in the news, it’s a good idea to reassure your children you’re going to keep them as safe as possible. This is advice from two LSU AgCenter family life specialists, Diane Sasser and Becky White.
Officially known as H1N1, this flu outbreak has captured attention across the country and could result in children being fearful about it.

Sasser and White say help children keep everything in perspective.

"In instances like these, we adults forget that children can pick up on our fears and hear conversations filled with our own speculations," White said. "A child can mix up real fear and make-believe fear. This is normal, but he or she will need your help to separate the facts from fiction."

Talking to your child about a flu outbreak or any hazard is helpful in preventing fear and in reducing the risk of infecting others, the experts advise. They provided these tips on actions you can take to help your children:

  • Be sure to get the facts from reputable sources rather than rumors and guesswork.
  • Explain what flu is and dispel the myths that your child could catch this particular strain of flu from being around pigs or eating pork. 
  • Talk to your children about flu and what your family can do to try to stay healthy.
  • Keep working to make things better, such as showing your children how to wash their hands thoroughly, which can help to protect them from catching flu or other diseases.
  • Show your children how to cover their mouths and noses with a tissue when they cough or sneeze. Also teach them what to do if there is not a tissue immediately available – how to trap the sneeze or cough with the inside of the elbow or with cupped hands covering nose and mouth. Encourage them to throw away a tissue after using it once and to wash hands after sneezing into them.
  • Remind your children to wash their hands before meals, after going to the bathroom and when they come in from playing outside.
  • Praise your children when they wash their hands or cover their mouths after coughing or sneezing.

Tom Merrill

 (This article was published in the spring 2009 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

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