How to support kids’ mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic
Be mindful of what your child sees or hears on television, radio, or online
- Although it may be normal that screen time increases during these exceptional circumstances, it is important to consider reducing the amount of screen time specifically focused on COVID-19. Too much information or constantly following updates about the status of COVID-19 can increase anxiety.
- Be aware that information intended for adults can cause anxiety or confusion, especially in young children.
Manage your own anxiety
If you are feeling anxious, take some time to manage your fears and take a few breaths before starting a conversation or answering your child’s questions.
Help your child sort through information on the internet
Some information, stories, social media posts may be misleading or based on inaccurate information. Take the time to look through the information together and discu ss.
Maintain structure and routines
- Make sure you are taking care of the basics just like you would during a spring break or summer vacation. Structured days with regular mealtimes and bedtimes are an essential part of keeping kids happy and healthy. Planning daily walks can be a good way to create structure and ensure physical activity.
- Overall, children do better when their activities are predictable and therefore, whenever possible, inform them about any change in routine ahead of time.
Know that children and teens often worry more about family and friends than themselves
For example, if children hear that older people are more likely to be seriously ill, they might worry about their grandparents. Letting them call or video chat with older relatives can help them feel reassured about loved ones. Also let them know that that if someone gets sick, health care workers will help take care of the m.
Help your child feel in control when possible
- Kids feel empowered when they know what to do to keep themselves safe. Take any opportunity to let your child feel in control by making choices or taking steps to keep healthy.
- Teach kids that staying healthy and having good hygiene habits can help them stay strong and well. Explain that regular hand washing also helps stop viruses from spreading to others, but that now you are going to be extra careful and do it a little more often.
- Although you want to help your child feel in control, it’s also necessary to set limits. For example, you may encourage structured and unstructured time, as well as supervised and unsupervised time as appropriate.
Be a good role model to your children
- Children learn most from what they see their parents do, therefore think of setting a good example of taking care of your physical and mental health! For example, avoid catastrophizing.
- If your child is overly focused on negative thoughts and outcomes, help them think in a more optimistic way. For example, let them know that just because there is a risk that something will happen, does not necessarily mean it will.
- If you are worried about someone’s mental health, call a mental health professional.
OPQ guidelines for speaking to children about COVID-19
MUHC Guidelines for Families Returning Home with a Diagnosis of Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19 Infection (Guidelines for Parents)
MUHC Guidelines for Families Returning Home with a Diagnosis of Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19 Infection (Guidelines for Adults)
MUHC McConnell Resource Centre Health Information Page
Government of Quebec COVID-19 Information Line & Information Page 1 877 644-4545
Government of Canada Coronavirus Disease Information Page