Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Talking about swine flu

Tonight Ross and Chris and I were sitting at the table, playing cards, when the subject of swine flu came up. Chris and I both lectured Ross about washing his hands, and using tissues, and keeping his fingers out of his mouth, and other such things. We were not delicate about the matter. We told him that many people may die from this thing, and that if his dad, a diabetic, gets it, he may well end up in the hospital. Not to mention that Ross himself is in a high-risk group this time.

My responsible, serious boy started to look very grave indeed. And I wondered if we had gone too far, if we had needlessly scared the crap out of him. He lightened up as we resumed the game, so I don't think he'll have nightmares, but still, I wonder.

How do we as parents convey vital information in a manner that gets our kids to pay attention, but doesn't cause them distress? I always try to be straightforward and honest with Ross, but sometimes I know I'm lacking in subtlety and compassion. Is it a kindness to soften the message a bit? Or do I risk having him not taking the information seriously if I try to cushion it?

What have you said to your kids about swine flu? When you were a kid, do you remember something your parents said to you in a serious situation that was helpful, or harmful? (I'm thinking about diseases like AIDS and polio, but also more broadly -- death in the family, serious illness, and so forth.) I'd love to know what worked, and what didn't work, for you.


Agnes said...

When I was a kid, we use to have air raid drills where we were all herded downstairs at school, and we got on our knees and said the rosary before we were allowed to go back up stairs to our classrooms....scared the crap out of all of us. As we passed the windows we all looked outside to see if there was any damage anywhere, not realizing it was "just a drill." Polio was another thing that arose while I was in grade school. We were lined up for polio shots. A couple of the girls actually got hesterical while waiting their turn. They were just given a bear hug and given the shot anyways.

I don't think Ross was hurt at all by your talk with him. He knows he has to be careful, or his dad will get very sick, and so will he. I think you did a great job.

Joanne said...

Its an interesting question, and one I think about only not particularly in connection with swine flu. Our niece has leukemia so I remind them when we're visiting her of their personal hygiene and we don't go if we have even a slight sniffle.
The subject I have trouble finding a balance with is child safety, ie. potential child predators. You don't want your kids scared to go out of the house, but you do want them prepared. Every time I send them (always together) into a public toilet I give them the little talk- be careful, stick together and if anyone approaches you yell loudly and/or kick them in the shins and run.
And I stand uncomfortably close to the door of the 'Mens' just in case.