As COVID-19 continues to escalate in Canada, children and youth are likely starting to ask some difficult questions. With school closures and major changes in daily routines, parents and guardians are working hard to care for both the physical and mental health of the children they love. Young people often respond to big life changes and world events based the reactions of the adults around them. As such, it is key for those adults to approach COVID-19 with a reassuring sense of calm.
Here are some helpful tips for emotionally supporting children and youth through the ongoing pandemic:
- Ask what they already know about the situation: Find out what children are aware of by asking simple, age appropriate questions. Something such as “do you know why schools in our country are closed right now?” Or, “have you heard about people around the world getting sick?” These conversation starters can encourage open, gentle dialogue, while helping you to correct any misinformation they may currently have.
- Encourage open and honest communication: Answering your child’s questions honestly will help them to feel acknowledged and supported. Throughout your conversations, help your child to feel safe, but stay truthful, and only offer the details your child needs or is interested in. If your child asks a question that you cannot answer, say so, and research the information together.
- Empower children to make choices: With the rise of COVID-19, many people are feeling a loss of control. Making decisions is an important step in helping young people to feel empowered and manage their feelings and worries in a healthy way. Give your child lots of choices, and outline specific things they can do from home to feel in control.
- Discover your “temporary normal” and get back into a modified routine: The closure of schools, workplaces, community resources, and public amenities are likely causing significant changes for you and your family. Although, it may look different than before, focus on discovering and refining some type of routine that still allows you to practice social distancing. Find ways to build in regular blocks of time that include play, learning, fitness, relaxation, and chore opportunities in your home. Having a reliable routine will assist young people in feeling as though there is some level of predictability during otherwise uncertain times.
- Model positive thinking and healthy behaviours: Being mindful of your thoughts and behaviours is a way to maintain your own physical, emotional and mental health. If you are caring for a child of any age, your own thoughtful choices can impact them in a positive way. Demonstrate positivity, regular handwashing, and social distancing at this time.
- Monitor media and online exposure: Although knowledge of COVID-19 in our communities and the rest of the world keeps us up-to-date, information overload or misinformation can overwhelm or add unnecessary stress or worry to any individual, especially children and youth. Balance news media with other entertainment options that are just for fun, or that provide some unrelated learning and education.
- Make time for play: People of all ages should make time to simply have fun and do the things around the house that they enjoy. Encourage free play and family time.
- Ask for help: If you are feeling overwhelmed, this is normal. It is OK to reach out to your family, friends, neighbours, or community for online or telephone support. For more information about youth mental health, check out YouthSMART.ca.
View and download the following YouthSMART Workbooks: