As a parent, you can’t help but worry about the safety of your children. So, it’s natural that as stories about the novel coronavirus that started in China flood the news, you worry about whether your child could be at risk. As tens of cases become hundreds and hundreds become thousands, the profound uncertainty and the fear of a deadly pandemic is inevitable.
The Psychology behind Fear
Fear is a powerful and primitive human emotion. It alerts us to the presence of danger, and it was critical in keeping our ancestors alive.
It can be uncomfortable and crippling, and in moments like this, it is more so than not.
Fear is healthy but over-doing it is not.
Fear is hardwired in our brains, and for good reason: It is like an internal home alarm system to alert us of danger. Feeling fear is perfectly normal. The capacity to be afraid is part of normal brain function. In fact, a lack of fear may be a sign of serious brain damage.
However, it comes in many shades and some are partly imagined. Our brain is a highly efficient creature. We get scared because of what we imagine could happen. Some neuroscientists claim that humans are the most fearful creatures on the planet because of our ability to learn, think, and create fear in our minds.
The more scared you feel, the scarier things will seem.
This process is called potentiation. It causes you to enhance the current emotions you are feeling. Your fear response will be amplified if you are already in a state of fear. When you are primed for fear, even harmless events seem scary.
As a matter of fact, influenza infects millions of people every year and kills thousands. Every year, doctors and public health officials talk about ways you can keep you and your loved ones from catching the flu. Those precautions can also help keep you safe from coronavirus, as it seems that the two illnesses spread in similar ways.
- Make sure everyone washes their hands! Using soap and water and washing your hands clean under the running tap does the trick.
- Encourage healthy habits, like eating a healthy diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep. This helps keep your child’s immune system strong.
- Teach children not to touch their mouths, eyes, or noses with their hands unless they have just washed them. This is easier said than done, I admit. Make a game out of it — have them itch with their knees instead. Carry tissues for wiping mouths and noses and throw out used tissues promptly.
- Teach children to be careful about the surfaces they touch when you are out in public. Little hands seem to instinctively reach for everything around them, so you’ll need to be creative. Bring things for them to hold instead or hold hands with them.
- Wear a mask if you are sick and stay at home.
Again: try not to panic. There’s a lot of misinformation floating around. Check reliable sources for updates, follow these tips, and call your doctor if you have any questions.
Stay safe everyone!