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'It's unprecedented': How to talk to your kids and teens about COVID-19

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase in Maine, so does many people's anxiety and that includes children.

MAINE, USA — Rebecca Hoffman Francis has a pretty good idea of how some kids in Maine are feeling right now.

"Anxious and scared which would be very normal reactions to this pandemic," she said.

Hoffman Francis is the senior director of clinical innovation and training at Maine Behavioral Healthcare. She oversees programs for kids with trauma. 

"It's important to determine what kids know about this" Hoffmann Frances said.

She says parents can find that out by asking open-ended questions like what do they know about COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and what are they're feeling about it.

"We don't want to lead them feeling a certain way but we want to find out what's going on for them and how they understand this."

Hoffman Francis says the best way to support your child is to take the time to talk with them about it.  

  • Reassure your child or teenager that they are safe. 
  •  Limit their exposure to news coverage.
  • Keep up with regular routines and schedules  
  • Be a role model

 "We need to be practicing taking care of ourselves, practicing washing hands and social distancing and showing kids by our own doing what they should be doing. Kids also need to see that their parent is calm and that their parent is not afraid and stressed out or that is going to equal being afraid and stressed out for them."

Hoffman Francis says this extended time at home gives parents a chance to teach their children a new skill that is not necessarily math, science, writing, or reading.

"Teaching kids how to do things around the house teaching kids about cooking, things they might need to learn that is also a bonding experience."

Hoffman Francis says it's also a good time for children to learn what it is to be a great citizen.

"To think and care about our neighbors especially those who are older or vulnerable to this disease is the best possible lesson we can teach our kids."

Hoffman Francis also stresses that parents who are working while also trying to be an impromptu school teacher to their child should remember not to put too much pressure on themselves to do it all perfectly. She says parents need to be kind to themselves. 

Here is a list of websites Hoffmann Frances recommends to parents.

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

Editor’s note: You are starting to hear the term ‘flattening the curve’ as a way to stem the tide of coronavirus cases. The above video explains what that means. 

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