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'There are 3 steps to start with': Boise psychiatrist gives advice on how to talk to children about the coronavirus

It starts with being calm and reassuring.

BOISE, Idaho — Many kids have joyful, innocent spirits, which may make it tough on parents when talking to them about hard things like the coronavirus, but it can be easier than one might expect.

"I do worry about children some," Dr. Ron Larsen said, medical director for Optum Idaho. "We have some recommendations about how to talk to children about what’s going on."

Dr. Larsen said there are three steps to start with.

"The first really is to remain calm and reassuring yourself," he said. "Children listen to your words, but sometimes they pay even more attention to your style or the way that you say it. The way that you say something is just as important as using words."

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Larsen's second recommendation is to make sure you are listening to the child.

"Children will ask questions at their own level," he said. "Don’t assume that their question is loaded... just listen at the child’s level."

Thirdly, the doctor recommends asking the child what they are hearing about the coronavirus.

"Pay attention to what children are listening to, because they’ll tell you," Larsen said. "Sometimes they’ll tell you something that a friend told them or something else that’s out there, but stay at the developmental level of that child."

Larsen said if parents listen, are aware, and stay at the age appropriate level with the child, your family will feel more secure.

"It’s really important for families to feel that they’re secure," he said. "Parents can offer up some simple solutions that keep them feeling safe."

For more recommendations on how to speak to kids about the coronavirus, visit the CDC's website.

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