Monkeypox is a common topic of conversation right now – for the news, social media, adults, teens and even kids. At Children’s Minnesota, we want to offer tips and advice for how to help your family through yet another virus outbreak.
Tips for families during the monkeypox outbreak
Kids and teens may feel nervous, anxious or stressed that another outbreak is happening. Especially since they have been through so much since the COVID-19 virus started spreading. But, monkeypox is different from COVID: We haven’t seen any deaths from monkeypox, it’s less life-threatening and it doesn’t spread as easily.
And, we know there is a lot to discuss when it comes to mental health and kids when talking about monkeypox.
As we saw with the HIV/AIDS crisis, certain groups of people can be stigmatized from outbreaks like this. It’s important to address how kids may have heard how monkeypox can spread, for example, boys and men having sex with other boys/men. This is only one example of how someone could have been infected with monkeypox but rumors spread fast. And, as we know, kids can misunderstand events like this.
Bullying is possible if a child or teen does get infected with monkeypox as kids can start rumors or assume how the child or teen got the virus. Now that the virus is spreading more rapidly, it’s important to educate your family on it so they don’t fall to these rumors.
Education is key
Education is the first step. Making sure you and your family are aware of the outbreak, how it spreads and the signs and symptoms of it is the first step when it comes to understanding monkeypox.
The science is clear – just as we recently saw with COVID-19 – monkeypox is a virus that can infect anyone in any age group. Monkeypox does not target people based on how they identify or who they love.
If your child engages in sexual activity, be sure to explain to them what to look for when it comes to monkeypox so they can be aware of their (and others’) bodies.
Worry for LGBTQ+ kids and teens
Parents of a LGBTQ+ child or teen may have additional worries right now as their children could be subjected to bullying. Make sure to talk to your child about their days and check in with them to see how they’re doing.
If a child or teen hasn’t told their parents or caregivers about how they identify – or if they aren’t sure either – they might feel fear and worry about getting monkeypox. Even just the fear of getting it can be a lot for a person to deal with, especially a child or teen.
Open up the dialogue
Making sure to keep an open dialogue with your children is so important. If they have questions, worries or concerns, let them feel safe if they want to express them. Or, start the conversation with your kids so they know this topic is open to discussion.
If your child feels like they are getting bullied at school, make sure they can come to you or someone in your circle and share that that’s happening.
Talk to your health care provider
Whether you’re worried your child might have monkeypox or worried about their mental and emotional health with another virus outbreak, talk to their health care provider for additional advice.