If your child has concerns and anxiety about Ebola, here are 10 concrete things you can do as a parent:
1. Parents must monitor all forms of media. It is helpful to watch media with your child, so that you can explain disturbing information.
2. It is important to give your child clear, fact-based and honest information that is age-appropriate.
3. Practice safety procedures and teach your child to go to a responsible adult in case of a contamination emergency. It was Aristotle who said, "Action reinstates a sense of control." Practicing safety measures will give your child something constructive to do with his feelings, therefore lowering his anxiety.
4. Focus your attention on your child. If he needs extra support, put on a night light, give him a cuddle and read him a book. Focus on child-centered activities, such as reading, to share time together.
5. Encourage your child to write letters, draw pictures or send small gifts to Ebola patients. This will help him learn about empathy and lower the decibels of his own fears.
6. Use my empathic process to create a safe and supportive space in which your child can express his feelings openly. By listening and talking, you can hear your child's concerns, diffuse rumors and share your own feelings in a descriptive way, so that your child is given direction to help him get his arms around his own emotions.
7. Trust is based on experience. Therefore, teach your child that he can trust you by being reliable, empathic and nurturing.
8. Never discount your child's feeling or opinions. Validate and value your child's concerns by actively listening and responding to his questions.
9. Give your child extra support by rehearsing and practicing health and safety measures with him. For example, the personal hygiene of washing hands and not touching anything that may have been infected by body fluids.
10. Know your child and be aware of changes in his mental or physical health: notice any loss of sleep; change in appetite; change in weight; inability to focus or study; and personality changes such as anger, aggression or insecurity, so that you can deal with these problems immediately, as they occur, with extra support and empathy.
Open dialogue is important during these times of confusion and anxiety for children. For some helpful parenting tips, read How To Talk To Your Child About Ebola.