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How to talk to your kids about COVID-19

"Model calmness" is a key tip from the CEO of the Idaho Youth Ranch, which offers resources for parents.

BOISE, Idaho — The COVID-19 coronavirus - and the response to it - make this a very unusual time, the likes of which many have never experienced before.

That's certainly true for children. So what do you tell them?

Idaho Youth Ranch CEO Scott Curtis says that, right now, the key to helping kids through the instability and uncertainty is for parents to focus on the fact that "they're here to share the important information with the kids and, more importantly than anything, is to validate the kids and their feelings and their sense of safety."

Along with listening to your kids' questions and concerns, watch their reactions. Curtis says those non-verbal cues will tell us a lot.

Some big questions kids may have relate to things like social distancing -- why they can't hang out with their friends or go to the playground -- or why there's such a focus on hand washing right now.

It can be difficult to communicate the importance of those things without fueling a "phobia."

"The first thing I think parents need to do is model calmness and role model what they want the kids doing," Curtis said. "So it's 'oh man, it's kind of a pain to have to wash your hands this much but let's go do it and let's do it together, and let's sing the Happy Birthday song.' But then when they complain or talk about it, part of that goes to the explaining, 'hey, we kind of need to do this more right now because of these things going on. But it's not a, hey, this is the way of life now forever."

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With the stress and changes that come with the current crisis, it's easy to isolate and forget how our actions affect everyone around us, but it's still important to simply be kind.

Curtis says the Idaho Youth Ranch website has resources to help parents.

"We've even got a little piece on there about making this your family's best hour," Curtis said.

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At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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