Talking to Teens and Tweens About Coronavirus

What should parents do if their teens and tweens, with easy access to information on their phones and laptops, develop anxiety over what they have heard about the coronavirus?

Here are tips from experts on how to help adolescents.

The psychologist Lisa Damour, author of “Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls,” said parents can help lessen their anxiety, and that of their kids, by learning all they can about the novel coronavirus and how to protect themselves.

“Reinforce basic stuff kids know and understand: Wash your hands, get a good night’s sleep, protect your immune system,” Dr. Damour said. “Tell your kids you know what to do to reduce the chances of getting sick.”

Other common-sense tips include trying to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, all routes of viral transmission, and keeping your distance from people who are coughing.

He compared it to other recent catastrophes that have been in the news, such as the bush fires in Australia.

“For parents it is easy to imagine a 3- or 4-year-old crying when they see a koala bear burned and alone,” he said. “I think we forget that a 17-year-old still has a little bit of that younger child in them, and they too are frightened and vulnerable.”

Dr. Mogel suggested passing along the words one teenager recently used in talking about the virus to her: “She said people with stronger immune systems should take more responsibility to keep people with weaker immune systems well.”

She added, “It’s also a good opportunity for parents to reinforce what they have always told their kids: Get a good night’s sleep, get some sunshine, eat well and make sure you wash your hands.”

Give teens the right information about how viruses are transmitted and put it in context, suggested Heather Turgeon, a psychotherapist and co-author of “Now Say This: The Right Words to Solve Every Parenting Dilemma.”

“Explain that part of why we take certain precautions, like 20-second hand-washing before snacks and lunch, not sharing food and utensils, and so forth is that we’re protecting vulnerable people. It’s a community effort,” Ms. Turgeon said.

If your own emergency preparation plans include stocking up on groceries and toiletries, as you would before a big snowstorm or hurricane, you might invite your kids to go the store with you. Having a stash of their favorite snacks in the pantry could help them feel prepared.