Talking to Children about Germs, COVID-19, and Practicing Proper Hygiene

Child washing hands with soap

With the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many children may have questions about the virus or germs in general.

What are Germs?

Germs are everywhere! They are small and can enter our bodies without us knowing. Some germs can live on surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, countertops) for a short period of time. Once they invade a human body, however, they can make a person sick. The easiest way to prevent the spread of germs is through handwashing!

Bacteria are tiny cells that obtain nutrients from their environment, which in some cases may be the human body, and can reproduce either inside or outside of a human body (KidsHealth, 2018). Ear infections, strep throat, and pneumonia are all examples of illnesses that can be caused by bacteria. Antibiotics can be used to help kill unwanted bacteria inside of the body. However, not all bacteria are bad. Some bacteria are good and help to keep our bodies functioning normally!

Viruses need to be inside living cells to reproduce (KidsHealth, 2018). A virus cannot survive long outside of a host, like a human or an animal. Viruses can cause the common cold; the flu; sinusitis; bronchitis; or other diseases, such as COVID-19. Antibiotics cannot be used to kill viruses; however, antiviral medications and vaccines can help to fight viruses or even prevent viruses from making a person sick.

How to Talk to Children about the COVID-19 Virus

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) (2020) has developed some general principles for how to talk to children about the COVID-19 virus.

  • Remain calm and reassuring.
  • Make yourself available to listen and to talk.
  • Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma.
  • Pay attention to what children see or hear on television or media outlets.
  • Provide information that is honest and accurate.
  • Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs.

How to help Children practice Good Hygiene

Parents can help children prevent the spread of germs by teaching children specific manners to be used when they are sick and showing them how to maintain proper hygiene. According to the CDC (2020), some ways parents can teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs are as follows:

  • Remind children to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing or who seem sick.
  • Remind children to cough or sneeze into their elbow or a tissue, and then throw the tissue into the trash.
  • Get children into a hand-washing habit.
    • Teach children to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their noses, coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, and before eating or preparing food. Have them sing the Happy Birthday song twice while they wash their hands; that will equal 20 seconds!
    • If soap and water are not available, teach them to use a hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizers should contain at least 60% alcohol. Supervise young children at home, school, and child care facilities when they use a hand sanitizer to prevent them from swallowing the product.

For more information about COVID-19, please visit the CDC’s website at


Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2020, March). Talking with children about coronavirus disease 2019: Messages for parents, school staff, and others working with children. Retrieved from

KidsHealth. (2018, July). What are Germs? Retrieved from

Recognizing and Managing Stress for Parents

Woman stressed in front of a computer

Stress is an unavoidable part of life. Parents can experience stress related to a variety of situations. These situations can be ordinary, such as getting your children to school on time or rushing home from work to make dinner. On the other hand, they can be extreme, such as facing a serious illness or financial difficulties. Since stress can cause physical, emotional, and mental health issues if not well managed, it is important for parents to learn how to recognize and find ways to deal with stress.

How to Recognize Stress

Reflect and identify what causes you to feel stressed. Do you feel stressed in situations related to family, health, finances, work, or other situations?

Know your signs of stress. Everyone experiences signs of stress in different ways. Which of the following symptoms do you experience when you feel stress?

  • Headaches, muscle tension, neck or back pain
  • Upset stomach
  • Dry mouth
  • Chest pains, rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Lack of concentration or focus
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety

Reflect on and identify how you deal with stress. Determine if you turn to unhealthy behaviors to cope with stress, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or overeating. Do these behaviors happen often or only during certain events or situations?

How to Manage Stress

Take care of yourself. It can be hard to find time for yourself when you are a parent, but it is important to take time for yourself, even if it is just a few minutes a day.

Try different stress-reducing activities. These activities can include meditation, yoga, taking a short walk, reading, or talking about your concerns with friends or family. Everyone manages stress in his or her own way, and you may have to try a few activities to see which ones work best for you.

Spend quality time with your family. Find activities that your family enjoys doing together. Take a walk or hike, have a family game night, or go to the movies.

Focus on changing only one behavior at a time. Unhealthy behaviors that develop because of stress can be difficult to change. Instead of making several changes at one time, focus on one behavior you would like to change or improve.

Reach out for support. Accepting help from supportive friends and family can improve your ability to manage stress. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, you may want to talk to a doctor or psychologist, who could help you manage your stress and change unhealthy behaviors.

Additional Resources


American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Managing stress for a healthy family. Retrieved from

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Five tips to help manage stress. Retrieved from

How to Talk to Kids About Tolerance, Acceptance, and Diversity

Biracial family posing for a picture

“Mom, why is that person in a wheelchair?”

“Dad, why do Sam and I look so different?”

We have all been there. Kids ask difficult questions, often at inconvenient times. Sometimes we shush them or feel embarrassed about the issue they have raised. As parents, teaching tolerance and acceptance and embracing diversity and inclusion are part of the job description – and it even can be one of the perks!

As parents, we can try to be prepared and put in place strategies that help our children understand the diverse world in which we live. Explore your family’s cultural and ethnic background. Many of the things we do every day as parents trace back to our cultural roots, and we may take for granted that our children understand why we do what we do. Be vocal, explore traditions, and tell stories. These actions and activities can open the door to exciting conversations with your kids.

Along with looking at your family’s background, explore and celebrate how other people do things. Learning with your kids can be an exciting way to build cultural competence and invite the value of inclusivity to your family. Exposure to other cultures, traditions, religions, races, and ethnicities can help children cultivate an understanding of who they are and an awareness of the diverse world around them. Attending cultural festivals, reading books that highlight diversity, eating different foods, encouraging diverse friend groups, and exploring cultural stereotypes in media are all great ways to build inclusive values.

Even when families have a solid foundation and family values that nurture and support acceptance, the time will come when your child shouts something that makes you feel uncomfortable in the moment. At this point, it is important to take a breath and respond in a manner that is calm, caring, positive, matter-of-fact, and non-judgmental. These moments provide some of your best opportunities to connect with your child and continue his or her learning about tolerance and acceptance in a meaningful way.

Additional Resources

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness. (2018). Inclusivity: How to talk to your kids about tolerance and acceptance. Retrieved from

PBS Parents. (2018). Talking with Kids. Positive Ways to Talk and Listen. Retrieved from

We’ve put together a list of books for kids about tolerance, acceptance, and diversity. Click here to download the book list.

Helmet and Bike Safety for Children

Kid riding bike with helmet

Whether used for transportation or just for fun, bikes can be a great way to get outdoors and get some exercise! When parents encourage their children to practice helmet and bike safety, they can help prevent some injuries that can occur while riding, such as concussions. Most importantly, children and adults should always wear a helmet every time they ride a bikeeven on short rides. While not all injuries can be prevented, a good-fitting helmet can provide protection to one’s face, skull, and brain if a fall occurs. But with so many options, finding the right helmet for your child may seem overwhelming. Follow the guidelines below for some help!

  • As helmets are so important, the U.S. government has created safety standards for them. When purchasing a helmet for your child, look for a sticker that says it meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards.
  • Helmets should fit snugly all around the head with no space between the foam and the rider’s head.
  • The bottom of the pad inside the front of the helmet should be one or two finger widths above the rider’s eyebrows. The back should not touch the top of the rider’s neck.
  • Make sure you can see your child’s eyes and that he or she can see straight forward and side-to-side.
  • Side straps should make a “V” shape under and slightly in front of the rider’s ears.
  • No more than one or two fingers should be able to fit under the chin strap. When your child opens his or her mouth wide, the helmet should pull down on his or her head. If it doesn’t, the chin strap needs to be tighter.
  • The helmet should not move in any direction once the chin strap is fastened.
  • If your helmet is damaged or has been through a crash, get a new one! Helmets are designed to help protect the rider from one serious impact.

Riding a bike that is in good condition and is the right size for your child can also help keep him or her safe! To quickly test a bike to see if it is the right size, have your child stand straddling the top bar of the bike with both feet are on the ground. There should be 1 to 3 inches of space between your child and the top bar. Also, always check that your child’s bike has brakes that work well and the tires have enough air.

Once your child has a helmet that fits and a bike that is the right size, he or she is ready to ride! Helping your child understand and follow the following safety guidelines can help keep him or her safe while riding:

  • Always ride with hands on the handlebars.
  • Always stop and check for traffic in both directions when leaving your driveway, a curb, or an alley.
  • Use bike lanes when possible. Always ride on the right side of the street, in the same direction as cars.
  • Stop at all stop signs, obey traffic lights, and learn appropriate turning signals.
  • Ride with friends in a single file line.
  • Do not wear headphones while riding a bike. Music may distract the rider from noises, such as car horns.


Centers for Disease Control. (2015). Get a heads up on bike helmet safety. Retrieved from

Kidshealth. (2014). Bike safety. Retrieved from

How to Choose Between Store-Bought and Homemade Baby Food

Baby eating baby food

Starting to feed your baby solid foods at around 6 months of age is an exciting time! When you start feeding your baby solid foods, you may think about whether homemade baby food is better than purchasing it from the store. Both of these are good options, but you may want to think about the following when considering which you will choose:

Reasons why parents choose to buy baby food:

  • You can save time by purchasing baby food because you do not need to cook, mash, and store it.
  • You can purchase pureed fruits and vegetables that may not be available fresh or in season.
  • The food can be easily carried in your purse or bag because it is prepackaged and ready to serve.
  • Store bought baby food usually does not need refrigerated until you open it.

Reasons why parents choose to make their own baby food:

  • You get to choose the foods to feed your baby rather than choosing from what is available in the store.
  • Your baby gets used to eating the same foods and flavors that the rest of your family eats and there is more variety.
  • It may be less expensive, but it does take extra time to make and safely store homemade baby food.
  • Homemade baby food is more earth friendly because you are not throwing away baby food containers.

If you decide to make your own baby food, remember that homemade foods can spoil more quickly and need to be refrigerated or frozen. You can find more information about how to prepare and safely store baby food at

Whether you decide to make your own or purchase baby food, it is important to start healthy eating habits early. You can do this by providing your baby with a variety of foods and textures, sharing mealtimes with your baby, and being a role model by choosing healthy foods and beverages!

When Should You Start Getting Your Child’s Teeth Checked?

Kid brushing teeth

One of the many milestones parents track with their new babies is the emergence of the first tooth. But, when should you first visit the dentist?  Probably earlier than you think. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children should visit the dentist within six months after their first tooth appears or by age 1.

Cleaning your child’s teeth should begin at birth using a washcloth at bath time to wipe his or her gums clean. Once his or her first pearly white pops through, begin using a soft infant toothbrush twice a day with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. Keep in mind that children don’t need much toothpaste. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends using a smear of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice for children from birth to age 3. For children ages 3 and up a pea sized amount is all you need.

Your child will need your assistance until about age 7 or 8 to ensure he or she  reaches his or her back teeth for a thorough cleaning. Flossing is another important part of healthy teeth and should be done at least once a day. Make it easier for your child by using floss that comes on a handle.

Just like adult toothbrushes, your child’s toothbrush should be replaced every 3 to 6 months or when the bristles appear to be worn. All family members should visit your dentist twice a year for cleanings and check-ups.

Additional Resources


AAPD. (n.d.).  FAQ. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Retrieved from

ADA. (n.d).   How to care for your child’s teeth.  Mouth Healthy by the American Dental Association. Retrieved from

Is Bedwetting Common for Children?

Child with urine spot on the bed

As a parent, you probably remember potty training your toddler. At times, it may have been challenging and you might have questioned if your child would ever get out of diapers. Nevertheless, your child ultimately triumphed and was finally potty trained! Or so you thought… Out of the blue you start to notice that your child is wetting his or her bed – not just once but frequently. You may notice your child is ashamed and withdrawing from school and, perhaps, even from you.

Bedwetting, or nocturnal enuresis, can be an embarrassing problem for the child and the parent, but it is very common among young children. In the United States, over 5 million children wet the bed some or most nights, and about 15% of children continue to wet the bed beyond the age of 5. By age 10, 95% of children are dry at night.

Children stop wetting the bed at different ages. It is important for parents to understand that their child will most probably outgrow this phase. However, if bedwetting persists, keep an open mind and with love and support help your child tackle the issue.

Here are a few facts and strategies for addressing bedwetting:

  • Usually between ages 3 and 5, a child no longer needs a diaper during the night. However, some children’s bladders are smaller, which causes them to urinate more frequently.
  • While your child is sleeping, the brain may not receive the message from the bladder that it is full, which can cause your child to not wake up to use the bathroom.
  • Bedwetting is common among family members. Children with a parent or parents who were bedwetters are more likely to wet the bed themselves.
  • Some medical conditions, such as a urinary tract infection or constipation, may cause your child to bed wet. Rule out any medical issues by visiting your child’s pediatrician.
  • Accidents happen. When they do, be supportive and help your child clean up. You can also use absorbent pads under the sheets to help protect the mattress from getting wet.
  • Limit fluids in the evening and encourage your child to stick to a regular bedtime routine that includes a trip to the toilet shortly before going to sleep.
  • Consider having your child use a bedwetting alarm that is designed to help them wake up to use the bathroom. You may need to remind them multiple times to wear the alarm.
  • Remember, it is not your child’s fault for wetting the bed. Try to be understanding and patient. Getting angry or punishing your child for wetting the bed will only add pressure and potentially make the problem worse.
  • If the problem becomes worse, consider seeking help from your child’s pediatrician and/or a child psychologist.


Bennett, H. J., & American Academy of Pediatrics. (2015). Waking up dry: A guide to help children overcome bedwetting (2nd ed.). Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.

The Importance of Handwashing for Kids

Mom helping daughter wash hands

Children come into contact with germs every day. Proper handwashing can help stop the spread of many illnesses – from the common cold to more serious illnesses like hepatitis A. Handwashing is easy, inexpensive, effective, and can help prevent sick days and trips to the doctor!

Here are some techniques for proper handwashing:

  • Wash your hands in warm water
  • Use soap and lather for about 20 seconds, which is about the length of time for children to sing “Happy Birthday” twice
  • Make sure to wash in between fingers, under nails, and wrists
  • Rinse and dry with a clean towel

Parents can help their children stay healthy by doing the following:

Teach children good handwashing techniques

When you are first teaching young children how to wash their hands, remember the following:

  • Demonstrate how to wash your hands; young children learn best through watching and doing – not just hearing!
  • Explain the proper handwashing techniques one at a time as your child practices
  • Follow up handwashing lessons with story books about germs and handwashing, look at pictures of germs, and point out when role models wash their hands. Other interactive activities will reinforce handwashing

Remind children to wash their hands in these situations:

  • Before eating and cooking
  • After using the bathroom
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing one’s nose
  • After cleaning around the house
  • After touching animals or pets
  • After coming home from school
  • After playing outside
  • Before and after visiting or taking care of sick friends or relatives

Wash your own hands with your children and model proper handwashing

  • Children do not always see what you do, so talk about it! Announce when and why you are going to wash your hands or talk about something you touched and how you washed your hands after you touched it
  • Carry hand sanitizer for times when there is no sink or soap available

Even when children know how to wash their hands, they may still need reminders! To stop the spread of germs, make hand washing rules and routines, such as washing before meals and after using the bathroom.


ABC News. (2011). How long should you wash your hands? Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Handwashing: A family activity. Retrieved from

Earth’s Kids. (n.d.). Teaching hand washing: Information and resources for parents & caregivers. Retrieved from

Kidshealth. (2015). Why is handwashing so important? Retrieved from