Talking to Your Child about COVID-19

Fear and worry are normal for children of all ages. Things we can do to manage stress and support our children during these unusual times include:

  • remaining calm
  • providing appropriate factual information
  • helping them feel some level of control

When talking to our children, a solutions-focused approach is most helpful:

  • many things are being done to help the current situation (work by governments, doctors, nurses, schools, etc.)
  • it will get better
  • life will return to normal
  • let’s focus on caring for our family and friends

Here are some resource suggestions to support you:

What We Can Do

Help stop the spread of the virus by practicing correct behaviours:

  • thoroughly washing hands
  • physical distancing
  • practicing good etiquette when coughing or sneezing
  • staying healthy through daily exercise, good nutrition and sleep

Pictures are often helpful when explaining concepts and are good reminders to us all. You may consider printing one or more of the following to post in your household:

Younger children may enjoy these hand washing songs and videos or this one from Sesame Street.

Taking Care of Your Child’s Mental Health

Here are some ways to support your child:

  • maintain normal, predictable routines as much as possible
  • have calm, age-appropriate, fact-based discussions
  • focus on the positive
  • model compassion, positive coping and self-care skills
  • eat healthy meals together
  • make sure children are getting enough sleep
  • spend more time together, increase play time – both inside and out
  • for older children, encourage breaks from the news and social media (if you do watch the news, watch it together to provide an opportunity for conversation and help to keep things in perspective)

Keep Active

Taking frequent, active breaks away from devices is an important part of staying healthy.

  • put on some music and dance
  • work through an online video (search “kids workout videos”)
  • run up and down stairs
  • jump rope
  • stretch

Being outside is important for children. Outdoor Play Canada has guidelines on what’s appropriate during the current pandemic. Keeping appropriate physical distancing, family members could:

  • go for a walk
  • play in the backyard
  • go for a bike ride

Keep Safe Online

With children spending more time at home on devices, it’s good to remind them about staying safe online and being aware of possible COVID-19 scams.

Children’s Reactions

It’s important to monitor and check in with children and watch for changes in their emotions, mood and behaviour. Changes can signal a need for additional support and/or resources. You may observe your child appearing anxious, preoccupied, or tired, and/or there may be an increase in:

  • anxiety
  • worrying about self or loved ones
  • difficulty focusing
  • preoccupation with illness
  • need for reassurance
  • fatigue
  • stomach aches, headaches, etc.

Reactions will vary according to:

  • a child’s development stage
  • level of awareness about the pandemic
  • exposure to accurate information about the pandemic
  • physical or emotional proximity to the outbreak
  • health status of child and/or loved ones
  • mental health status of child and/or loved ones
  • prior experience with traumatic circumstances

Immediate Help

  • Kids Help Phone:
    • 1-800-668-6868 (support in French or English)
    • reach a counsellor 24/7
    • text CONNECT to 686868 (24/7)
    • live chat via the website (9:00pm – 4:00am)

Taking Care of Your Mental Health

Take care of yourself, not just for your well-being, but also for those you care about and support. This will help improve your energy, focus, ability to cope with challenges and overall life experience. And you’re modelling wellness strategies for your children.

  • take time to eat and drink water
  • stay active to increase energy, boast immunity, reduce insomnia and feel positive
  • get enough sleep (7-9 hrs per night)
  • stay connected, supportive relationships are a powerful influence on our sense of wellness.
  • take time for yourself during the day
  • be mindful of your thoughts and feelings, both positive and negative – focus on what is meaningful
  • treat yourself with compassion and gentleness
Ask for Help

Please be aware this is a stressful time and to reach out if you need some help. The Ministry of Health has information to help deal with the stress of the current situation.

Immediate Help

  • Mental Health Crisis Line:
    • toll-free 1-800-784-2433 or (604) 872-3311 (Greater Vancouver)
    • 24/7 confidential, non-judgmental free emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including thoughts of suicide – available in 140 languages
    • Online Crisis and Youth Chat available at Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre

Indigenous Supports, Immediate Help

  • Kuu-us Crisis Response Services:
    • toll-free 1-800-588-8717
    • provides 24/7 culturally-aware crisis support to Indigenous people in BC
  • Hope for Wellness Help Line:
    • toll-free 1-855-242-3310
    • offers 24/7 counselling and crisis intervention by phone or online chat
    • available in French, English, Cree, Ojibway, and Inuktitut
  • Metis Crisis Line:
    • 1-833-638-4722
    • provides 24/7 mental health support
    • includes crisis intervention and access to crisis programs

Mental Health Resources

  • Child and Youth Mental Health – Community Based Services: information on Child and Youth Mental Health teams located across the province, and services provided. CYMH teams are operational, either on site (with physical distancing) or virtual. Intake clinics are also operational, so new referrals are being processed.
  • Anxiety Canada: expert tools and resources to help manage anxiety (adults and children).
  • Bounce Back: free evidence-based program designed to help youth and adults experiencing symptoms of mild to moderate depression, low mood or stress, with or without anxiety. Teaches effective skills to help people improve their mental health.
  • Heretohelp: provides information about managing mental illness and maintaining good mental health, including self-management resources and screening self-tests for wellness, mood, anxiety and risky drinking.
  • Mental Health Digital Hub: a provincial website that provides information, services, education and awareness about mental health and substance use for adults, youth and children.
  • MindHealthBC: online mental health counselling program providing information and support for depression, anxiety, or other mental health or substance use challenges; includes recommendations for further support in Vancouver, Richmond and other coastal communities.
  • WE Well-being Digital Tool-kit: downloadable well-being resources, social media graphics, and links to inform and support parents and families.

Mental Health Resources in Other Languages: