Talking to your kids about swine flu

April 29, 2009 9:13:15 PM PDT
A report on how to talk to your kids about the disease. When stressful news like this pervades the atmosphere, parents often struggle with how and when to tell their kids; with swine flu, we are finding this to be the case.

Lotte Matrobuono and her family of Elk Township, New Jersey, were planning on going on a cruise in July, but the swine flu has her rethinking that.

"I do not want to be on a cruise ship if there's going to be an epidemic going around with the swine flu; I'm very, very scared," Matrobuono said.

Marva Huff worries about how much to tell her 10 and 5-year-old grandkids about swine flu.

"Sometimes children blow things a little bit out of proportion too and I don't want them to get upset about stuff, 'If we touch this, we're gonna get sick,'" Huff said.

It's a dilemma facing parents all across the country.

"Even the term "swine flu", I can just hear a child say, 'Oh my God! What is that?', you know creating all kinds of fantasies," Dr. Richard Selznick of the Cooper Learning Center said.

Dr. Selznick is director of the Children's Regional Hospital at Cooper and author of the just published book, "The Shut-Down Learner."

Right after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, he began to see just how shaken and very stressed many children were. It was evident in many of their drawings.

"I think I saw a lot of these after 9-11, where houses were on fire, anxiety conveyed in that kind of sense of being out of control," Selznick said.

Selzick believes swine flu has the potential of causing that kind of hysteria again and warns parents not to go overboard.

"If they ask straightforwardly, I would say, it is a possibility, again, I would be very careful not to be phony and giving a child false information?Overwhelming a child with too much medical information, overwhelming a child with too much statistical information is just beyond them and I think parents sometimes assume that they can handle it," Selzick said.

Cooper Hospital will be conducting a web chat on Friday at Noon about swine flu. Click here to submit your questions.

FAQs about swine flu
Additional swine flu resources
Transcript of's swine flu chat with local experts
CDC Swine Flu site
World Health Organization
Swine flu cases around the world

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