SUPPORTING OUR CHILDREN DURING COVID-19
Children and teens take their cues and react based on how the adults around them react. If parents and teachers are dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak calmly and confidently, this will assist children and students as they cope with this situation. It is important to be prepared. “It is not a crisis if the adults know what to do”!
SHARE THE FACTS – if you name it, you will tame it!
Be prepared to speak to the facts about COVID-19 at a level children can understand. Having accurate information helps regain a sense of control and mastery over the situation. Avoid excessive details and stick to just the basic facts on how it might affect them. Also, limit their exposure to news feeds and social media as children can easily misinterpret something they have seen or read. Encourage them to come to you if they have any questions, and together, you will get the correct answers. Remember to be a good listener and encourage their questions.
PRACTICE CORRECT HAND WASHING WITH YOUR CHILDREN
Explain how important hand washing is to keep us all safe and show them the best way to wash your hands. Have a supply of hand soap with kid appeal if you can get it! Teach them how to cough in their elbow and how to use Kleenex to cover spray. Make it a fun experience by making up short songs that ensure a good wash.
Reassure children that they are safe and that it is the job of adults to do what is best to keep them safe. Point out how our governments are doing an excellent job of supporting us, and that is why the schools are closed. Brilliant doctors and other health professionals are giving us the best advice they can, and we should follow the directions they give us even though it may not be fun. Explain that sleepovers are not a good idea as we don’t know who has been exposed, so that is why we are all staying home, so we don’t spread COVID-19 to one another.
NORMALIZE AND VALIDATE FEELINGS
Be sure to validate any feelings they express and assure them that being worried and fearful in this situation is normal and that we are all having those feelings. Explain that it is important to talk about our feelings and to develop coping strategies. Discuss with the child what helps them in these situations and remember that each child is a little different in what comforts them. You can offer suggestions but let the child tell you what they need.
HAVE A PLAN
As a family develop a plan on how you are going to manage the school closure, how to support and maintain contact with grandparents, how you are going to get supplies, who the children can associate within the neighbourhood and what the restrictions are. Explore ways they can connect with their friends. Explain the differences between social isolation, quarantine, and social distance and when which one would apply.
KEEP UP REGULAR ROUTINES
Children experience a sense of safety and security when regular routines are established. Understand that children have had all of their activities taken away and might be feeling a sense of loss. Set up a routine that, if possible, continues their activities but on a smaller scale. They still need to practice and stay engaged, as this situation will not last forever. Create, if possible, a schedule of learning activities that mimics school routines and/or build in fun activities that encourage creativity. Set aside a time for reading. There are excellent read-aloud books and videos for younger students that address worrying.
Wilma Jean and the Worry Machine
CREATE A LIST WITH YOUR CHILDREN OF FUN THINGS TO DO
Engage children in creating a fun list of activities to do. This might be the opportunity to coach them on how good boredom is! Children need to be encouraged to engage during their own undirected play and downtime. Outside play in nature has a healing effect and can reduce stress levels. Children also like to contribute, and you may have to work at home. Set up a chore jar with rewards and share with them how helpful it will be to you as you must still work. Praise and reward the efforts!
WHAT TO DO IF YOU DO NOT THINK YOUR CHILD IS COPING WELL
Most of the local community agencies are providing phone and telehealth services and are encouraging people to reach out when needed. Professional services can be provided in different ways in the short term so it is important that you reach out for support.
Please see our board website for contact information connected to our counselling team or email our Social Workers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hands the family help network is the local Children’s Mental Health Centre for our regions.
https://thefamilyhelpnetwork.ca/ crisis line 1-844-287-9072
Kids Help Line: 1-800-668-6868
https://kidshelpphone.ca for online chat
Text: 686 868
Prepared by: NNDSB Mental Health Team