Health Resource Spotlight: Infectious Disease Outbreaks

March 13, 2019


 parent holding child hand

The problem: Right now, there is widespread flu activity in 48 states and 11 states have reported outbreaks of the measles. How can adults talk to young children about what’s happening without scaring them?

One solution: A tip sheet published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) on Talking with Children: Tips for Caregivers, Parents and Teachers During Infectious Disease Outbreaks.

When children watch or hear media reports about an infectious disease outbreak, or overhear others discussing it, they can feel scared, confused, or anxious. Adults don’t always know when a child needs help – or the best way to offer support.

This tip sheet:

  • Explores some common childhood reactions to reports of something bad happening, by age.
  • Explains how parents, caregivers and teachers can support children in managing their stress responses.
  • Reminds adults that it’s important for them to model self-care and be physically and emotionally healthy in order to support children.
  • Offers tips for talking with preschool-aged children.
  • Provides resources for finding a mental health or other professional for the child, if needed. 
The tip sheet is available in English and Spanish.

Topics: Professional Development

Written by Laurie Rackas