Guest Post: Talking to your Kids about H1N1

This week’s guest blogger, Dr. Arlene King, chief medical officer for Ontario, gives her advice on how to effectively answer your child’s questions about the H1N1 flu.

Photo by James Jordan, via Flickr

Over the past several months there has been so much talk about the H1N1 flu. Your children are bound to have come across this topic and will likely ask you questions, if they haven’t already.

If your children are worried, it is important to ask them about what they have heard, and talk to them about their specific fears. Ask them questions to help them identify how they feel. Answer their questions openly and honestly, at a level that they can understand. Be concrete and try not to avoid difficult questions. When you are unsure about the answer to their question, consider including your older children in the research process so that they know where to find credible information.

Stay calm and confident. If you cope well with a stressful situation, your children will also cope better. Your calm attitude will help ease their worries and feel safe and secure.

Your children will also benefit from some extra attention and affection at a time when they may be feeling uncertain. As well as support from you, encouraging healthy behaviours like eating and sleeping well help keep the immune system strong.

This is also a good opportunity to teach your children how to stay healthy this flu season. Teaching them how to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds (long enough to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice) and to rub soap all over their hands and between their fingers. Doing this yourself sets a good example for them. Also, this is a good opportunity to teach them to cough and sneeze into a tissue or their upper sleeve if they don’t have a tissue.

For more information on how H1N1 affects children, visit Ontario.ca/flu.

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