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It's time to have a conversation: How to talk to your kids about COVID-19

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Posted at 5:25 AM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 10:53:09-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Now that schools across our region are shut down to help slow the spread of COVID-19, local experts say now is the time to have a conversation with your kids.

Talking with your children about the coronavirus and the changes we are all going through can help ease their fears.

If you are not talking to your kids about COVID-19, someone else is. Misinformation about the virus is being spread online and on social media. Either way, your kid will get exposed to what's happening whether the facts are right or wrong.

News5 spoke to two local experts who specialize in counseling and they both recommend educating your kids. Ask your kids what they know and fill in the blanks. Some parents think withholding information will help their child to not panic, but that can actually cause more harm than good.

It's always a good idea to be honest and transparent about your own feelings and if your behaviors or routines have changed, explain why .

"They need adults to be encouraging and responsive, and at the same time they need adults not to deny that the adult is fearful," said Dr. John Fleming, a certified psychiatrist with the Southern Colorado Summit Center. "If you tell a kid everything's okay there's nothing to worry about but they can tell that you are worried, that's what sets up a conflict, a disbelief."

Licensed Professional Counselor Jennifer Luttman says parents should provide hope and reassurance that things will get better.

"There are ways to spin all of it in a positive way, so that it won't produce fear and anxiety in our children," Luttman explained. "I think we are being given a unique situation to take this as an educational opportunity for our children. What do you do when you are presented with a scary challenge?"

Parents can take a positive approach by telling their children the school closures and event cancellations are not happening because lots of people are sick. They're closing because most people are healthy.

Luttman recommends parents get creative. They can arrange "Skype play dates" with their kids, while still keeping that social distance. Parents should also keep reminding all kids that the adults are in control.

Don't forget to look for signs that your child is anxious! Counselor's say most of the signs will be physical, like a tummy ache, head ache, or even if you see your child obsessively washing their hands.

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Click here for the latest update on the number of cases, the age, gender and location of presumptive positive, indeterminate and confirmed cases from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

People who have general questions about coronavirus disease 2019 can call CO HELP at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911 for answers in many languages. Email COHELP@RMPDC.org for answers in English.