How to talk to your kids about coronavirus

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- The coronavirus pandemic has many adults on edge, so how can you help your children understand? In a matter of weeks, life as we know it has changed. It may be temporary, but, experts are helping families navigate through this new normal.

Officials with the Iowa Department of Public Health are encouraging long-term care facilities to protect residents from COVID-19. Officials with the department say they're committed to taking critical steps "to ensure long term care facility residents are protected from communicable diseases, including Novel Coronavirus [COVID-19]." (MGN Image)

Dr. Marcia Slattery is a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry and pediatrics at UW Health. She says talking to your kids about the coronavirus starts with listening. "Hear what they have to say. Hear what their worries are. Hear what they've heard from their friends-- that will give you a lot of information about how they're processing this experience," said Dr. Slattery

With uncertainty and changes to routines, parents should focus on what they can control by having a plan. With kids out of school indefinitely, Dr. Slattery recommends parents put together a schedule for the day. “Doesn't have to be every hour like at school but think about blocks of time that you're going to build,” she said.

Your new schedule should include thinks like physical activity. Kids need to play and go out for fresh air. Experts also recommend parents limit screen time for kids and plan for “brain exercise” and learning activities they would do in school like reading.

Despite intense efforts to keep everyone apart right now, Dr. Slattery says parents still need to prioritize social interaction, taking advantage of technology to keep everyone safe. “Social distancing doesn't mean social isolation," she says. She recommends parents talk to kids about how to be responsible during this time while normalizing their new routines.

Experts say give your kids the facts but don’t embellish with too much info. Parents should also pay attention to changes in their kids’ behavior. This will give clues to how they're handling all this.