Coronavirus

Parents Don't Need Advice on How To Talk To Their Kids About Coronavirus

Not every situation requires an expert's guidance.

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How should you talk to your kids about the coronavirus? CNN recommends this: "Resist the urge to bombard them with every possible headline or piece of information about the outbreak."

Twenty-four hour news channel: heal thyself.

Aside from the hypocrisy, it's good advice. Unfortunately, you can't expect the media to avoid offering tips at a time like this. The ritual has become part of the modern crisis package: assume parents are desperately in need of someone they don't know telling them how to talk to their own kids.

Nancy McDermott, author of the forthcoming book, The Problem with Parenting, says parents always asked for these articles when she was a mommy blog editor. But, she added, "I don't think this was something that would have vexed our parents or grandparents in quite the same way."

Yes, I doubt there were How to Talk About the Disappearance of Amelia Earhart notes going home from the schools. But now, a phalanx of psychologists rushes in to prescribe precisely the right mix of gravitas, insouciance, wisdom, and calm.

The usual mix of advice includes: listen to your kids (duh), don't freak out during the conversation (duh), don't tell them more than they need to know (good advice), and tell kids what they can actually do to be safer or keep other people safe.

In the case of the coronavirus, I'm happy to say that this includes telling the kids to wash their hands and cough into their elbows. One site tells kids to practice the "Dracula sneeze," which is a great name for this technique.

Many advice-givers also add Mr. Rogers' tip: "Look for the helpers." By this he meant the firefighters, doctors, and anyone else doing the right and difficult thing to improve the situation. I'm happy about that suggestion.

What I'm less happy about is the tip-giving culture itself, because it implies parents want or need—I'm not sure which—expert help when it comes to interacting with their own children.

"Coaching parents how to talk to their kids first emerged in the 1930s," Frank Furedi, author of Paranoid Parenting, told me in an email. "But it kicked in big time in the 1980s. This shift was based on the assumption that communication between parent and child required expert skill, and if a parent miscommunicated it could have a devastating effect on their child."

So mom and dad have basically been warned that any word they utter could ruin their kids forever. And we wonder why parents are so anxious, and read so much advice? It's a vicious circle.

NBC gives what seems like an entire script for parents to follow:

"You can say something like, 'It's really scary for you to be hearing all about this virus and people who are dying and how awful it is. I bet that has you feeling worried that you or someone you love might get sick and maybe even die. I can absolutely see — especially as a kid — how you would feel this way and have these thoughts. I think that's probably pretty normal…'"

And on and on.

The problem with that script is, well—it's a script. It's obviously not meant to be repeated word for word, but clearly the network feels that parents need extremely granular guidance. But as Furedi points out, "Whenever parents adopt someone else's script, they lose the capacity to be sensitive to specific dynamics of their very unique relationship. It is far better to invent a family ritual like, 'This is how the Smiths react when faced with a mega problem.' Such rituals make kids feel that they are special and helps forge a close bond within the family."

If that sounds like advice for parents on how to talk to your kids about the coronavirus, you're welcome to take it—or leave it. Probably, most parents will navigate this particular conversation with their kids just fine on their own.

NEXT: CPAC Attendees Mocked Coronavirus Fears. Now Some Are Self-Quarantining.

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  1. CNN recommends this: “Resist the urge to bombard them with every possible headline or piece of information about the outbreak.”

    Parents are in a ratings slide. They need this to get the eyeballs.

    1. Then CNN followed up with “Trump genetically modified Coronavirus for maximum lethality in children”.

      1. Followed by “Trump bit off an infected bat’s head at rally to prove he is immune to coronavirus.”

        1. Followed by “Trump steals Alice Cooper’s thing, claims he did it first”

          1. I thought Alice bit the head off a chicken and Ozzy bit the head off a bat?

  2. It is far better to invent a family ritual like, ‘This is how the Smiths react when faced with a mega problem.’

    Well, that’s not illegal *yet*.

    1. All of my family rituals start with a summoning of the Great Dark Lord.

      1. That’s actually a pretty good cat name.

        1. yeah, when the kids are cuddling with the kitty they pay less attention than usual to the parents. Per gummit skewlz,”what the hell do PARENTS know anyway?”. (they are just mute teats from which WE get to extract a continual stream of MONEY)

  3. “Nancy McDermott, author of the forthcoming book, The Problem with Parenting, says”

    So you asked an expert about whether you need to hear from experts?

  4. It’s a virus. Behave as if it were a virus.
    You know, just like the ‘regular’ flu.
    My personal amusement is all the people who kept flying when the airports became a constitution free zone are now in a panic.

  5. “It’s really scary for you to be hearing all about this virus and people who are dying and how awful it is. I bet that has you feeling worried that you or someone you love might get sick and maybe even die. I can absolutely see — especially as a kid — how you would feel this way and have these thoughts. I think that’s probably pretty normal…”

    “Please subscribe to hear the entire sympathetic parent monologue”

    1. “It’s really scary for you to be hearing all about this virus and people who are dying and how awful it is. I bet that has you feeling worried that you or someone you love might get sick and maybe even die. I can absolutely see — especially as a kid — how you would feel this way and have these thoughts. I think that’s probably pretty normal…
      ….because you’re a kid and you haven’t yet figured out how full of shit grown-ups are. See, son, the people who have been telling you all these scary stories are what we call “Fake News”, and they are in the business of telling you scary stories so that you will listen to them and the more people listen to them, the more money they make selling advertising. They will tell you they are in the business of selling you the news, but that’s horseshit – how much money have you ever paid CNN for their news? No, son, you are not the customer for CNN, you are the product. They are selling your attention to Coca-Cola and McDonalds and the Commies. Don’t let them get away with that, stop paying attention to people who tell you they’re giving you something for free, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch and if they’re lying to convince you otherwise you can be sure they’re just trying to screw you somehow.”

    2. “It’s really scary for you to be hearing all about this virus and people who are dying and how awful it is. I bet that has you feeling worried that you or someone you love might get sick and maybe even die. I can absolutely see — especially as a kid — how you would feel this way and have these thoughts. I think that’s probably pretty normal…”

      Or as my (and any other) dad in the ’70s would have said – “Oh, knock it off!”

      1. You want something to cry about? I’ll give you something to cry about!

        1. HEY I resemble that remark……..

  6. “It’s really scary for you to be hearing all about this virus and people who are dying and how awful it is. I bet that has you feeling worried that you or someone you love might get sick and maybe even die. I can absolutely see — especially as a kid — how you would feel this way and have these thoughts. I think that’s probably pretty normal…”

    “OK, Boomer.”

    1. Vivian Manning-Schaffel was born in 1968, so- not a boomer.

      Just sayin’.

      1. Damn! Young whippersnappers are getting old …

      2. OK, Boomer. 😉

        1. My niece Ok Boomer’d me last weekend. When I pointed out I was technically a millennial; she ripped on me even harder. Gave me hope in the youngest generation.

          1. At least you are not the worst of the worst: someone with a Boomer father and a Millenial mother – a Boomenial.

  7. When I grew up we used to have safety drills in school to prepare us for nuclear war. Nobody thought twice about it.

    1. I remember those days, to us it was less school work and more hiding under the desk time, fine by me. My grandfather even built us a bomb shelter and to us it was a blast, pun intended, it was a good one had a natural spring running through it for nice ambiance and fresh water. never mind that the spring probably had tons of mercury form all the gold mining and that would kill us just as horribly as nuclear fallout

      1. Hmmm… hiding under the desk. That resembles tornado training, earthquake training, and active shooter training.

        How many of these scenarios is hiding under your desk actually effective?

        1. It would interesting to find out if they still do the earthquake drills on top of the active shooter drills. I’m thinking they just combined them and then got rid of calling it an earthquake drill altogether.

          In other words, they’re all just reminders that your life is in danger at alL times, but the government has your back. So, turn to the government for any help you may need. They’ll help. Shout out to cops, cps, adult protective services, and all the other alphabet soup agencies that put their lives on the line everyday to make sure we never get the boot off our neck.

  8. It is far better to invent a family ritual like, ‘This is how the Smiths react when faced with a mega problem.’

    Dad and broodling #2 take point with the SBRs. Broodling #1 covers them with the long gun while Mom and broodling #3 take cover, provide logistic support, and prepare should a tactical retreat be necessary.

    Oh, you mean a “mega problem” that has an exceedingly high probability of all the Smiths, their neighbors, and the overwhelming number of family and community members, as well as their homes and businesses, surviving completely unscathed.

  9. Ms. Skenazy says parents don’t need advice on how to talk to their kids about the coronavirus – then goes on and gives advice on how to talk to kids about the coronavirus.

    1. Her opening statement — on hypocrisy — is a MASSIVE fuckup!

  10. Just tell them that it is nothing to worry about except that grandma and the weezy kid with the inhaler at school are probably going to die.

    Give it to them straight.

    1. “And stay at least *twelve* feet away from Asians.”

      1. That is right. Don’t catch the kung flu and bring it home.

        1. Don’t mess with the Fist Of The Wuhan Mountain.

        2. Everybody was kung flu fighting?

    2. Grandma maybe, depending on what else she’s sick with. The weezy kid with the inhaler probably not. One of the things that makes this virus interesting scientifically is that most such diseases hurt the young and the elderly in about equal numbers. This variant of coronavirus seems to leave the young alone – and we don’t yet know why.

      Note that even Grandma’s probably safe unless you warehoused her in one of those places that we euphemisticly call a “home”.

      1. But comorbidities like asthma made it a lot more deadly. If you are healthy and young, your chances of dying are likely less than one percent. But if you have diabetes or some kind of suppressed immune system or asthma your chances of dying go up significantly even if you are young.

        And it seems to affect Asian males the most. So, be sure your kids know the nerdy Asian kid with the inhaler is likely a goner. Make sure you get him to finish your math homework before paying him.

        1. Actual LOL. Thanks.

        2. ackshully its the ones with respiratory INFECTIONS, not other types of conditioins. Pneumonia, other flu, TB… seems the virus feeds, as in parisitises, the bacteria present in the lung congestion and produces a new toxin, and THAT is what kills.

          Asthma sufferers don’t have high bacterial counts, so there is not that dual infection possibility. I think Weezy will likely survive, unless the asthma weakens him to a bacterial infection in his lungs. Nor is diabetes a big boost to your likelihood of getting it. Again, no bacterial tie in.

          Compromised immune system, absolutely.

          Recently learned that Asians as a whole tend (about half of them do) toward a genetic mutation that changes the way their bodies produce and utilise Vitamin D. They are thus immunocompromised right out of the gate. Both D and C are critical for immune system strength. As a population, the people of Wuhan China have the mosst deficient vitamin D blood content of any people group on the planet. EVERYTHING is against them on that score… northern latitude, less sun in winter, Colder, less time outdoors AND more skin covered when they do go out. Sun at lower angle, less of the needed spectfum to form vitamin D. Poor diet, largely because the government’s many policies make it so.

          One time when it really sucks to be Asian in China.

          1. Damned Denisovans

      2. This variant of coronavirus seems to leave the young alone – and we don’t yet know why.

        Not really. We have one data source – Wuhan – that analyzed early data. The young survive – there – but that is because this ain’t the damn flu. So expectations that this is flu are – fucking stuck on stupid. No one has immunity from previous outbreaks/vaccines re this NEW virus – but the young mostly have much better responding immune systems than adults/elderly. always have always will. There’s no rocket science here – as long as people stop pretending that this is the fucking flu. It isn’t. But there was also lot of other stuff going on with the Wuhan outbreak as well (like overwhelmed hospitals that stopped accepting patients) so data on what was a very small sample anyway was not tracked well.

        Korea is now analyzing cases that are young – at least one 4 days old, one 14 weeks, 1 yr, etc. As well as pre-natal effects on mothers who get sick. Over time presumably they will be tracked to see if different stuff happens to them over time. Death or glory probably ain’t the only outcomes. Maybe it becomes another story.

      3. You’re probably safe as long as it’s not in Kirkland.

  11. This follows “Parents Need Advice on How To convince Their Kids They are Actually a Different Gender.”

  12. Coaching parents how to talk to their kids first emerged in the 1930s,” Frank Furedi, author of Paranoid Parenting, told me in an email. “But it kicked in big time in the 1980s

    Only because boomers were raised by parents who bought Dr Spock’s Baby and Child Care in droves. It was apparently even translated into Vulcan and sent into other galaxies.

    The only thing that changed in the 80’s was that boomers had their own kids in large numbers starting in the 80’s. And the combo of Dr Spock’s basic thesis in the 50’s You as a parent know all you need to know. Trust your instincts with the boomers-as-adults complete self-absorption ooh look. I’m a parent. No one has ever been a parent before. I guess I’ll have to trust my instincts because I know all I need to know about this unique unprecedented event in human history

    Kinda weird – the most permissively raised generation of kids in history becoming one of the most helicoptery/overprotective generation of parents. But this whole article reads like it was written as a blurb on Dr Spock’s website

  13. CNN sends Gupta out every day w/a “panic!” radio message about a host of medical issues. Everything will kill us.

  14. What I’m less happy about is the tip-giving culture itself, because it implies parents want or need—I’m not sure which—expert help when it comes to interacting with their own children.

    If you get advice from someone and things go wrong, you don’t have to take responsibility. It was the fault of the person you got the advice from.

    Dodging responsibility is really big these days.

    1. And twice as good, if you *give* advice to someone and things go wrong, *you* don’t have to take responsibility either! It was the fault of the person who took your advice! Win/win!

      Exit question: guess what happens to the overall quality of advice in a world like this?

      1. Exit question: guess what happens to the overall quality of advice in a world like this?

        You should really ask this question first.

  15. I think that extra attention to it is not necessary for kids but additional precautionary measures are required. Make sure your kid is washing his/her hands, don’t let him/her to interact with strangers or tach anything and make sure to follow bike safety for kids rules!

  16. The second-best way for helicopter parents to protect their kids from the coronavirus is to vacuum-seal them in big freezer bags and wait until after the epidemic passes to thaw them out again. The best way would be for the helicopter parents to join the kids inside the freezer.

    1. I disagree: Put the vacuum sealer in reverse, bag the parents put THEM in the freezer, and leave the kids on their own to figure it out. They will no longer be saddled with all the rotten advice their parents formerly dredged up from every brackish estuary of political folly they could find.

  17. “What I’m less happy about is the tip-giving culture itself, because it implies parents want or need—I’m not sure which—expert help when it comes to interacting with their own children.”

    . . . says the malcontent whose entire career appears to be based on giving tips to parents.

  18. “cough into their elbows.”

    I can’t do that. The closest I can get is six inches up from the back of my wrist. (I’m probably “tight-jointed.” But so are lots of other people, I assume.)

  19. “Resist the urge to bombard them with every possible headline or piece of information about the outbreak.”

    Twenty-four hour news channel: heal thyself.

    Aside from the hypocrisy, it’s good advice

    May be the most anti-rational comment of the year. WHAT HYPOCRISY? 🙂

    (For retards, a news channel saying don’t share all of this with your kids … is no different than a tobacco company saying the same … or a whiskey company … a pot dispensary. DUH
    But Gomers MUST attack that damn meedja!)

  20. The comments make the article seem interesting, I think I’ll read the article…

  21. “OK, kids, I know you’re worried, but remember: you’ll either die of this virus now or you’ll die of something else now or later. Dying after nine years compared to dying after ninety years is a distinction which largely loses its meaning when we contemplate the enormous age of the universe. If death *does* take you at a young age, wouldn’t you rather spend the rest of your brief life doing something useful, like doing your homework or cleaning the gutters like Mommy told you? But first, get me another beer.”

    1. Wait, *Doctor* Spock is the child-rearing expert? I thought it was *Mister* Spock.

      1. On further examination, it seems that Doctor Spock’s *Baby and Child Care* outsold Mr. Spock’s *How to Teach Your Children to Be More Logical* by 100 to 1.

        Of course, on Vulcan those sales figures were reversed.

  22. It’s necessary to raise awareness for children to protect themselve against the dangerous virus like it.

  23. When did the word “parenting” itself come into vogue? Didn’t “parent” used to be only a noun, not a verb?

    1. It was verbed years ago.

      1. Yes, but does anyone know how many years, or decades? My guess would be the 1970s, but I’m not sure.

        1. Not a lead pipe cinch, but evidence nonetheless.

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