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New Guidance for Communicating With Kids About COVID-19

by |August 19, 2020
a mother puts a mask on her daughter

Photo: August de Richelieu from Pexels

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented challenges for health care providers and caregivers worldwide. The National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) at Columbia University’s Earth Institute has just published a set of communication guides that aim to assist in communicating with children about the pandemic and reinforcing healthy behaviors.

Although the guides were developed for health care practitioners, they may also be informative for parents, caregivers, teachers and others who work with children, said Jeffrey Schlegelmilch, director of the NCDP.

The guides consist of communication best practices, evidence-based guiding principles, example statements, and visual resources for children, providers, and caregivers.

“These guides help to bridge the science,” said Schlegelmilch, “and empower adults to have conversations with children about this pandemic in ways that are geared towards how they communicate at different age levels.” There are three versions of the guide, tailored to three different age groups: early childhood (infant – 4 years), school-age children (ages 5-11), and teens (ages 12-19).

selection of covid-19 guides by age“It is my hope that for clinicians, as well as others who work with children, that this makes their jobs a little bit easier, the impact of their interactions with children a little more positive, and helps to sustain a trajectory where children are able to thrive in their growth and development despite the challenges we are living through with COVID-19,” said Schlegelmilch. “Anything less could cost us dearly for a generation or more.”

The guides are free and can be downloaded from the NCDP website. They are the result of more than a decade of research and practice at NCDP focused on children, and were created with support and input from the center’s long time partners at the Children’s Health Fund.

Earlier this year, the National Center for Disaster Preparedness released a guide with recommendations around physical and emotional health, the use of technology, and communication strategies for families and providers working with children of all ages. The center has also assembled a brief selection of other COVID-related tools for families, caregivers, and communities. The list is available in English and Spanish.

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