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.