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How to talk to teens about the new coronavirus

We seem to be stuck in a nonstop news cycle about the new coronavirus that is causing an illness called COVID-19. Many parents are understandably sharing concerns, too — at least among friends and families. It’s also possible that teenagers are talking to their own friends and surfing the web and social media sites to gather information, including potential misinformation.

How can you make sure teenagers are informed just enough without feeling overwhelmed, yet also have accurate information? Your teen already may be asking many questions. Even if not, it might be a good idea to find out what your teen has heard in case you need to clarify information and ask them if they have any worries. (If you have younger children, see my blog on talking to children about coronavirus.)

If you have your own questions about the new coronavirus, check reliable sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which offers a range of information about the virus. The World Health Organization’s myth busters page can help you give correct answers to some surprising questions and misinformation that is spreading.

Answering questions teens may have about the new coronavirus

Before you start, ask what your child knows so far in case you need to clarify anything, and find out what questions your child has. Below are some questions teens might ask about the new coronavirus and some suggested responses.

What caused this new coronavirus?

Coronaviruses cause the common cold and the flu. This coronavirus is believed to have started in animals and then passed on to humans at a live animal market in China.

Why now?

This is actually not the first time that there has been a widespread virus that started in animals and spread to humans. Another example is the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002 that was caused by a different coronavirus. That virus eventually was contained. Doctors, scientists, and government officials are working hard to do the same with this newest coronavirus.

One reason why we are hearing more about this virus is because of how fast it is spreading and how much it has affected people in many different countries. Another reason is that we also have many more ways of sharing information than we did in 2002, and posts now have the ability to “go viral” themselves. If you notice that you are becoming distressed after reading all of the posts about the virus, then it might be helpful to limit how much you read about the virus in the news and on sites or apps, to be informed just enough.

Can our pets get sick?

There is little evidence that domesticated pets, including dogs and cats at home, are likely to get sick from this new coronavirus, or spread the virus.

Can you die from the new coronavirus?

Most people — probably more than 95% and possibly more than 99% — who have gotten sick from the new coronavirus have not died.

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Written by Shobha

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