THE BLOG
10/21/2014 01:16 pm ET Updated Dec 21, 2014

How to Talk to Your Child About Ebola

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Have your children asked you about Ebola yet? The pandemic is causing quite a stir in the news and social media, and while you grapple with your own questions and fears, you should also prepare yourself for how to handle your child's questions and potential anxieties as well.

Because children receive input in a personal and egocentric way, their understanding is attached to the realm of their own experience and the ego. Thus, your child may feel particularly vulnerable and threatened by the unknown.

Young children perceive events in a concrete way. As a result, if your child hears frightening information through rumor or media outlets, he/she may experience those events as real and worry or panic. Your young child may regress and fear separation from you if anxiety increase, while an older child may become more aggressive or angry. All of this is an effort to gain control and stabilize feelings of helplessness.

During this confusing time, try to keep your child on a normal schedule. This will help to give him/her a feeling of security. Then, when preparing to talk with your child about Ebola, here are some tips that can help:

1. Knowledge is power.
First, you must educate yourself about the facts concerning Ebola. By understanding the disease, you can competently inform your child about this illness, without the alarm that accompanies rumor and misinformation. In this way, you will be able to cope with your own anxieties, while reassuring your children that you are able to protect them and keep them safe from harm.

2. Listen to your children's feelings in an empathic way, to keep connected.
My empathic process can really help you here, as clear communication and bonding keep the channels of communication open. This will help you address your child's anxieties, before they escalate.

3. Pay special attention to children with a history of trauma.
For instance, if your child has had to deal with divorce, death, illness or abuse in their history, they may become especially anxious at this time and need extra attention and reassurance.

4. Never discount your children's feelings and be generous with your hugs and physical contacts.
An important part of helping your child is letting them know that you, Mom and Dad, are there for them. They need to know that they are protected primarily by you, but also other adult authorities.

Remember, children take their cue from their parents and look to their parents to safeguard their well-being. Therefore, as a parent, you must not allow your own anxiety to burden or escalate that of your child's. If need be, you should reach out for professional help and support.