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ND Health Officials Offer Tips for Talking to Kids about COVID-19

North Dakota health officials say parents should talk to their children about COVID-19 using a calm, factual approach that minimizes anxiety or fear. (Adobe Stock)
North Dakota health officials say parents should talk to their children about COVID-19 using a calm, factual approach that minimizes anxiety or fear. (Adobe Stock)
March 19, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. -- North Dakota parents have a lot on their plates as the coronavirus crisis unfolds, including job concerns and keeping their families healthy.

State officials also are acknowledging the added stress of making sure children understand what's happening.

Alarming information about the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 is everywhere.

Pamela Sagness, Behavioral Health Division director at the state Department of Human Services, says when looking through the eyes of children, it's hard for them to not notice daily life being upended.

"Whether it's on TV, radio or just in the way that people are talking about the virus," she states. "But then also, you know, looking at the changes that are happening in their lives right now -- whether it's school closing, or mom and dad are working from home."

Sagness says through the Parents Lead program online, simple tips are being offered to help children cope with the situation. These include establishing a normal daily routine, having ongoing conversations with them and recognizing signs of stress.

Sagness says it isn't only young children who need thoughtful attention during this health crisis. She says high school and college students, who might see milestone celebrations canceled, should get a sympathetic ear from their parents as well.

"There's a lot of disappointment right now with some of the cancellations," she notes. "We have students that are concerned about, 'What does this mean for graduation?' Or, you know, 'I didn't get to finish my last season of track.'"

The tips on engaging with children about COVID-19 can be found on the website ParentsLead.org. Officials say information will continue to be added in the coming days and weeks.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - ND