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Here are age-appropriate ways to talk to your kids about COVID-19

Dr. Ken Duckworth, medical director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, explains to WUSA9 how to talk to your kids about COVID-19.

WASHINGTON — Dr. Ken Duckworth, medical director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is offering strategies on how to talk to your kids about COVID-19, whether they're 4, 10 or 14. 

First up: Age 4.

"You start by asking them what they know," says Duckworth.

Examples of questions: 

  • Why do you think you can't you go to school? 
  • Why do you think you can’t you see your friends? 
  • Why do you think you can’t you see your grandparents?

"Whatever they say, you build off of that," says Duckworth. "Because they’ve been able to intuit some things."

For a 10-year-old, Duckworth says you also want to ask them what they know, but then build on that conversation with more context.

Guide for talking to a 10-year-old: 

  • Be honest.
  • Correct things that are inaccurate.
  • Don’t get into the weeds of it unless they’re interested in a specific aspect.
  • Kids are going to be afraid. Their entire routine has been disrupted just as yours are. 
  • Share your own anxieties and concerns that will convey to them that it’s OK to be afraid.

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At age 14, Duckworth says kids understand the concept of future impact, so tailor your conversation around what you’ve done to protect them.

Guide to talking to a 14-year-old:

  • Talk about the plans you have:
    • Safety supplies you have purchased
    • What hospital you would go to for care? 
    • If somebody got sick where would you stay in the house to seclude them?

"The idea is that the 14-to-15-year-old can think ahead and their anxiety will be reassured with more of a material plan," says Duckworth.

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If you have a mental health vulnerability, Duckworth says you need to prioritize getting treatment to take care of it. Seeing you get that help will be reassuring to your kids.

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