Spread Facts, Not Fear — Talking with Kids about COVID-19

As COVID-19, otherwise known as Novel Coronavirus, begins to spread, so is misinformation about the disease. Folks are reporting increased Anti-Asian bias. As of this morning, I saw that the hashtag #KungFlu is trending. (This is after some folks began calling it the Wuhan Virus… funny how there are no Italian names for it.) That said, there is no denying that our kids will come in contact with these harmful messages.

Now, more than ever, it is important to share up-to-date factual information about the virus to protect the many vulnerable populations, namely the elderly and immunocompromised folks, who live in our communities. When we do, we also need to have conversations about race as well. As a Commissioner on the SF Board of Education, I’m encouraging SFUSD instructional leaders to find ways to talk about this with kids. It’s also important for parents. Don’t assume that because we live in a “progressive” city your kids are immune to misinformation and bias being spread about the disease.

Yes. Even in San Francisco.

I witnessed this, myself, just last week while waiting in line to check-in for my regular doctor screening. The man behind me struck up a conversation with my husband. They began chatting about the fact that folks had obviously been stealing hospital masks from the free dispensers at the door (I know… seriously!) Then out of the blue, he starts telling us that his wife won’t go to Chinese restaurants anymore.

He looked older and sickly, and l honestly didn’t have the energy, but I just had to say something. I told him, it was a disease anyone could get. It wasn’t associated with any one race. He made some excuses and then, thankfully, stopped talking to us.

Racism starts with fear.

As a parent, I know racism starts at home. So, I’m doing my best to ensure my kids have the resources to push back on the racist and xenophobic messages out in the world.

While it is normal to be afraid of new diseases we are just learning about, being afraid isn’t an excuse to be racist. Nonetheless, I know when folks are scared, they are more likely to revert to black and white thinking and less likely to challenge false narratives or their assumptions. While we educate our kids to prevent the spread of the disease, we also need to “innoculate” them from spreading the racism associated with it as well.

How I’m talking about Coronavirus

“Just the Facts”

Share basic facts, in kid-friendly language, and limit sharing to only as much detail as your kids ask you for.

Be proactive and positive

Washing their hands and covering their coughs are a way to help prevent the virus from spreading and keep other more vulnerable folks safe.

Don’t forget to talk about RACISM!

As I’ve talked about before on this blog, being “colorblind” is also a form of racism. It is not only OK, but it’s also necessary to talk about racism in order to make sure we are not increasing harm for those who are being targeted!

At times like this, it is really important to speak up and express your support for the Asian-American Community!

Resources for talking about COVID-19 with kids/teens

Coronavirus Explained (For Kids)

Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus


Quick Facts on Coronavirus with Dr. Pak

Coronavirus Prevention Slideshow

… and not sharing cell phones. If the slide below doesn’t get you to clean your cell phone, nothing will!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t mention anything about Anti-Asian bias.

Science > Rumors The basics of COVID-19 (A lesson for middle school students on preparing for the coronavirus in NYC)

I love how they’ve integrated information about the science of the disease as well as integrating information on xenophobia.

When Xenophobia Spreads Like A Virus

UCLA Prof. Explains Racism’s Role in the Coronavirus Crisis

Gilbert Gee is a professor at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health, explains how the coronavirus outbreak is similar to other health crises like the SARS and AIDS. He explains the history of scientific racism ti Hari Sreenivasan and explains racism’s role in public health emergencies.

Treating Yellow Peril: Resources to Address Coronavirus Racism

He states:

“As we continue to track the development of the coronavirus, racial fears and anxieties have become a dominant frame in which people evaluate the concerns over the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus infection. This page is intended to gather textual and digital resources to provide easy access to material useful for teach-ins, talking points, and classroom teaching.

Consider using this hashtag, started by our French brothers and sisters: #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus | #IAmNotAVirus”

Jason Oliver Chang (twitter @chinotronic)

[Parents and caregivers in SFUSD can stay up to date on school closures related to the virus by going to the District website. View public health announcements related to Novel Coronavirus by going to the SF Department of Public Health website.]

Let’s spread information, not fear! Do you know of any other great resources to share? Please post them in the comments below!



mom of twins. education nerd. public school warrior. reformed cat-lady. amateur urbanist. social justice addict. BLERD. & most recently Board of Ed Commissioner

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Ali M Collins

mom of twins. education nerd. public school warrior. reformed cat-lady. amateur urbanist. social justice addict. BLERD. & most recently Board of Ed Commissioner