Confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the United States are on the rise and media coverage of the disease may have your little ones feeling a bit spooked. For parents looking for a way to talk about the public health concern, a comic about the coronavirus designed "just for kids," created by NPR editor Malaka Gharib, is the perfect tool to help explain the situation.
Over the weekend, public health officials announced cases of the virus in Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington state, New York and Florida, bringing the total in the United States up to 43 as of Monday morning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The World Health Organization (WHO) has continually referred to the outbreak as an "epidemic" rather than a "pandemic" to try to "avoid unnecessary panic," The New York Times reported. But with cases occurring closer to home, children could be worried about their friends and family members.
Gharib tells Romper her comic — based on a radio story by NPR education reporter Cory Turner wherein they spoke with health experts about what kids would like to know about the outbreak — was intended to help alleviate some of the fears children might have. "I learned a lot about how adults should break down potentially scary information to children from the three professionals who we spoke to," she says. "The most important things I learned was to reassure the child that they are safe and give the child a sense of agency, a sense of control over their situation — that they can do some simple things to protect themselves and the people who they love."
And despite numerous media outlets covering the epidemic, Gharib felt there wasn’t much that catered to younger readers. "There was a lot of information for adults on the web but not much for kids," she tells Romper. "We wanted to speak directly to children, ages 8-12." For example, one page of the clever comic reads, "If kids do get the virus, it tends to be very mild."
According to the CDC, there is "no evidence that children are more susceptible" to COVID-19. But that doesn't mean that children won't be confused and concerned about what it all means. Through simple explanations and upbeat illustrations, Gharib explains that children should ask questions about anything they don't understand, trust the professionals to protect them and their loved ones, and remember to wash their hands often.
To use this tool to talk with your own child or any curious kiddos you know, Gharib recommends that you "print it out, fold it and read the mini zine together."
"It’s a great format that they can do on their own — now they can make a mini book about anything they’d like," she says. "Just have mom and dad photocopy it and they can give their little magazines to their friends, too."
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include comments from Malaka Gharib.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.
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