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Last updated September 21, 2020. 2 minute read

Here is some guidance for how to talk about COVID-19

How we talk about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) matters. Communicating the right way can get people to adopt and apply safety practices that help slow to spread of the virus as well as quell fear. But the way we talk about the virus and COVID-19 needs to be tailored for the situation. Here’s how to change your language when you’re talking with your kids or discussing the virus at work.

Linnea Zielinski Written by Linnea Zielinski
Reviewed by Dr. Rachel Kwon, MD

How to talk about the novel coronavirus with your kids

There’s a lot of information to stay on top of with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). That’s why it’s important to assess what your kids already know about the virus instead of launching into what can be an overwhelming amount of information. It may have already been discussed in school or with peers. A great place to start may be asking what they know about the novel coronavirus and how they’re feeling. What they’ve heard, the accuracy of the information, and how that has informed their feelings and fears around the situation is all going to shape the conversation that happens.

It’s important that you don’t dismiss their fears, even if they’re based on incorrect information. Recognize your child’s fear, then provide the real information if they’re ready for it. If they are too scared, it may not be the right time to talk about the virus but rather their fear. You can come back to discussing the novel coronavirus when they’re feeling more secure and less scared.

Proper hand hygiene is recommended as one of the first lines of defense against the virus. Talk with your kids about why handwashing is important, when they should do it, and how to do it properly. Giving them instructions they can relate to, such as telling them to wash their hands while singing “Happy Birthday” twice instead of saying 20 seconds, can also help them understand and apply the information (When and How to Wash Your Hands, 2019).

How to talk about the novel coronavirus with coworkers, bosses, or employees

Your company may have guidelines for handling events like those we’ve seen with COVID-19. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suggested guidelines for businesses and employers so that they can implement strategies quickly and effectively. This requires open communication from all areas of the business.

If you’re an employee, you should be open with your boss and company about any possible exposures to COVID-19. You should also inform your supervisor if you start to feel sick. If you wake up feeling ill, tell your supervisor and ask about work from home policies. Additionally, ask about sick leave or work from home policies if someone else in your family is ill.

If you’re an employer or boss, encourage people to work from home if they feel any symptoms of respiratory illness and to practice proper hand hygiene and coughing and sneezing etiquette. This may require making sure that sick leave policies or work from home policies are flexible during this time. Any employee who has had a recent COVID-19 exposure, who shows up sick, or who starts to feel sick during the weekday should be encouraged to go home (Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019, 2020).