Our Story Begins:
Facing Kids’ Fears
The news this last couple weeks has been filled with a cornucopia of material that could make a sane person shudder in fear.
Terrorist organizations with acronyms that sound like a comic book character have taken over Middle Eastern cities. A guy jumped the fence and scrambled halfway through the White House with a knife. A virus with a strange clinical name called “Enterovirus” is paralyzing kids in a polio-like way.
Then there’s Ebola.
The viruses alone are enough to make you run screaming if you happen to see Dustin Hoffman walking down the street in a moon suit.
I bring this up because Ebola has my son beside himself.
Even the most distant local news outlets have been covering the Ebola story, my own market included. Cable news, local news, internet, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram . . . you name the outlet and there’s some story about what we need to do about Ebola. I work in news so information is a constant in my home.
My son up there, Noah, is trying really hard not to freak out about Ebola. He’s not succeeding, but he’s trying.
I have tried to allay his fears, too. I’ve told him how you really have to have contact with some sort of bodily fluid to catch Ebola. The people aren’t at all contagious until they themselves are showing symptoms of the virus. I tell him how there’s little chance he’ll even come in contact with the virus or someone who’s come in contact with the virus.
Then he asked the questions that explained his fears to me:
“Is it going to come here?”
“I doubt it, kiddo. The hospitals and the CDC try to isolate people who have it.”
That’s before one nurse . . . then another are diagnosed with the disease.
“It’s in Texas. Is it close to Grandma or Grandpa?”
Related: Our Story Begins: Leading by Example
That last question is what made the light bulb go on over my head. He’s not worried he’s going to get the disease, at least I don’t think so. He’s worried about his family getting it. Like a scene out of the Twilight Zone he’s likely thinking about the decimation of his family by a virus and he’s the lone survivor stranded in a post-apocalyptic world.
My wife, mother to my four kids, got a cough and a fever over a weekend. In just a couple days she was in the hospital and that boy up there never saw his Mom again. I see why he’s afraid, for his Mom it shouldn’t have been a big deal. She died of pneumonia. We tackle that all the time with antibiotics. The problem is this particular strain, coupled with his Mom’s weakened body, led to her dying a few days later. Now he sees a disease spreading across one country on the other side of the world and apparently making its way here – brought home by every single news outlet reporting every single patient in the US who gets Ebola. It’s made worse when he sees that there are no real treatments for Ebola.
I can’t isolate my kids from the news and all the sources of the Ebola-palooza. Nobody can, we’re too connected today. The fact that any one of us has a higher likelihood of getting hit by a bus than getting Ebola or Enterovirus or Anthrax doesn’t matter. You won’t convince the mind that the media machine beating the virus drum is wrong. What you can do is assure you kids they are safe.
Most important for my son is assuring him that we are safe. That, after all, is what he really wants to know.
What about you? Do you let your kids know about the events unfolding? Do you worry about disease, Ebola, Enterovirus?