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Montreal doctor recommends structured environment for kids amid coronavirus outbreak

How to talk to your kids about COVID-19
With the spread of the novel coronavirus across Canada and around the globe, how do you talk to your kids about it? Pediatric surgeon Harley Eisman joins Global’s Laura Casella.

As Canada and the world grapple with the unprecedented level of economic and social disruption caused by the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, many children are now home from school and may not understand what’s happening.

In Quebec, schools are now closed for the next two weeks.

Dr. Harley Eisman, a pediatric surgeon at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, told Global News Morning the first priority for parents should be ensuring their children continue to have structure in their lives.

READ MORE: Latest updates — Coronavirus in Canada

“I think first of all, kids strive when there’s structure, so it’s important for parents to structure their homes, as there’s been dramatic changes starting this morning,” he explained to Global’s Laura Casella.

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“When they see structure, when they see their parents are structured, they will continue to know that life is normal and life is good.”

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Eisman says that when talking about the current novel coronavirus outbreak, parents shouldn’t try to hide what’s happening outside the house.

“I think you have to level with your kids and be honest with them. Let them know what’s going on,” he said.

READ MORE: Montreal-area food banks struggle to cope with COVID-19 restrictions

He added that now is a good time to explain concepts like social distancing and self-isolation to children to help them understand why the virus’ spread is keeping them at home.

“Use analogies, like if you line up some candles and you light the fire and the candles are close together, then the other candles might burn. But we’re all staying home, so the fire’s not transmitted, and the fire’s the virus,” Eisman said.

Above all, though, Eisman said parents should be calm and not cause alarm.

“Really let them know that all will be OK.”

Confused about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn that this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.