COVID-19 resources for parents and children
On this page
- Parenting during the pandemic
- Activities for children
- Helping children cope
- Be kind, calm and patient
- Resources for children
- Returning to school
- Staying connected
- Take care of yourself
- Information for parents
Parenting during the pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted families in different ways and can be stressful for everyone. Parents, caregivers and children are facing new challenges as the pandemic affects our daily work and home routines. Many schools, daycares and most workplaces have closed, and children and parents are suddenly at home full-time more often. Even though we're all trying our best, adjusting to these new challenges has created new stresses for families.
During this time, parents might be worried about their child's development and if they're reaching developmental milestones. When parents and caregivers are stressed, it becomes more difficult for them to meet the physical, mental and emotional needs of their children.
The guidance below can help parents and caregivers adjust to this new and unexpected situation.
Activities for children
Use these activities to teach your child about what they can do to reduce the spread of COVID-19:
- Hand washing heroes (video)
- Coughing and sneezing hygiene for kids (video)
Other educational topics
Use these resources to teach your child about other topics:
Helping children cope
Parents and caregivers play a key role in influencing their child's development and are in the best position to:
- reduce their child's stress
- help them manage confusing feelings
What you do and how you respond to your child affects the way they think, feel, act, develop and learn. Loving, consistent, and positive relationships help protect your child from the negative effects of stress.
Recognize changes in your child's behavior
Make note of how your child's behavior has changed since the beginning of the pandemic. Everyone expresses stress differently. Common signs of stress in children include:
- excessive worry or sadness
- unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
- difficulty with attention or concentration
When babies and young children experience and express their stress, they may act distracted, anxious or appear uninterested in what's going on. Young children may have tantrums or hyperactivity.
Parents and caregivers play an important role in helping their child cope with stress and make them feel safe.
Tailor your expectations
When introducing new experiences or challenges, be lenient, especially when your child is upset. Often, when a young child displays challenging or emotional behavior, it's their way of telling you they need happy time with you.
Create opportunities for quality one-on-one time with each child
Whenever possible, have one-on-one time with your child. This makes children feel loved and secure, and shows them that they're important.
Help your child stay virtually connected
Children should stay connected with their friends, neighbours and extended family members through:
- video chats
- phone calls
- social media platforms
This can be a reassuring way for them to interact with people they love.
Create a flexible but consistent daily routine
Involve your children in creating a daily routine. Asking for their input and allowing them to make decisions helps build their self-confidence. Set up a schedule that includes structured activities, physical activity as well as free time. This can help children feel more secure.
Play and engage with your children
It helps them to learn, express their feelings and build their self-confidence. Spend time with your children by taking part in their preferred activities. If you're not in isolation, get fresh air while keeping a distance of least 2 metres from other people.
Name your feelings
Talking about emotions and why they're happening can be helpful to you and your child. It will help:
- your child learn to express what they're feeling
- you to be aware and respond to these emotions
- to create a safe and strong relationship between you and your child
- to create the best conditions for them to learn, grow and thrive
Be kind, calm and patient
Listen to your child's concerns
Acknowledge and validate their thoughts and feelings. Be honest, open and supportive. Provide clear, factual information in a reassuring and age-appropriate way. Ask them how they're feeling. Let them know you're there for them.
Encourage positive behaviours
Children are much more likely to do what's asked if they're given positive instructions and praise for their efforts.
Be a positive role model
Model healthy and positive behaviours. Children learn almost everything by watching what other people do.
Model self-regulation as best you can by taking a deep breath, keeping calm and speaking to your child in a positive manner.
Your child will soon learn to also be calm and use reason when they want or need something.
Reassure your child
Sometimes, seeing adults upset or frustrated can be frightening to a child. They may worry that the adults are mad at them.
To help a child feel secure, it's important to reassure them that the adult's negative emotions stem from something other than them.
Take steps to calm down before you react
Children may respond to stress and anxiety by acting out. They need you the most when they're misbehaving.
- Before you respond, take 3 deep breaths or count to 10. Staying calm helps you stay in charge of the situation.
- If you can safely leave your child, take a step back from the situation to calm down, and reassure your child that you'll be back.
- Respond in a calm and thoughtful way, and redirect your child's attention to a good behaviour.
Resources for children
It's normal for you or your children to feel overwhelmed, stressed, confused, scared or angry during this time.
The following resources can be shared with your child:
- Kids Help Phone is available 24 hours a day for young Canadians (aged 5 to 29)
- this service provides confidential and anonymous care from professional counsellors
- call 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free) or text CONNECT to 686868
- Canada Youth Network
- COVID-19: Youth mental health resource hub is a collaboration of Jack.org, Kids Help Phone and School Mental Health Ontario
Returning to school
It may be challenging for children to adapt to a structured school routine after months of physical distancing at home. Parents can prepare kids for a return to the classroom by:
- reviewing how and when to wash hands, using age-appropriate language
- demonstrating physical distancing and giving kids a distancing reference like hockey sticks or bicycles
- practising putting on, wearing, and safely removing masks
Gathering limits and restrictions vary across the country. Follow your local public health authority's advice about in-person visits and specific requirements for your community.
It's always safest to keep physically distancing. You and your child can stay connected with family, friends and neighbours through:
- phone calls
- video chats
- social media platforms
Take care of yourself
Self-care is important
Parents and caregivers take better care of their children when they take care of themselves, too.
Eat well, get enough rest, take breaks and do something fun or relaxing.
Be kind to yourself.
Some individuals may use substances, such as alcohol and cannabis, as a way to cope with stress and anxiety during difficult times. However, substance use presents potential health risks and can negatively impact your mental health and wellbeing. If you use substances, do your best to minimize the amount and frequency that you consume. Try to avoid using substances around children.
Know your limits
Don't immediately rush back to work or chores when your child is:
- safe by themselves (for example, napping)
- being looked after by an alternate caregiver
Take a moment to yourself and recharge. It will help you:
- be in better shape to respond to your child's cues
- reduce your stress and therefore your child's anxiety
Connect virtually with others
You're not alone.
Find support and relieve stress by talking about your feelings and concerns with your friends and family. Talking to others about your emotions can help you respond to, process and address them better.
Practise a 1-minute mindfulness activity.
- your thoughts
- how you feel emotionally
- if your feelings are happy or not
- how your body feels
- anything that hurts or is tense
This will help you relax and feel grounded.
Support is available
Although many local services are closed to in-person visits during the pandemic, many are offering other forms of programming for parents and families. Try contacting local services, such as your local:
- public health unit
- community health centre
Ask about ways they can support you so you feel better equipped to respond to your child's emotional needs.
Information for parents
Find resources with advice for parents.
Parenting during COVID-19
- Wellness Together Canada: Mental health and substance use support
- UNICEF: 6 tips for parenting during COVID-19
- UNICEF: Tips for supporting your child though the COVID-19 pandemic
- Parenting resources to support children during the COVID-19 pandemic
- World Health Organization: COVID-19 parenting tips and resource
- School Mental Health Ontario: Mental health activities for children
- Resources to keep children safe online
- COVID-19: What to do if you or someone in your home is sick
- Pregnancy, childbirth and caring for newborns during COVID-19
- SickKids: Stressed adults and anxious young children: Supporting infants, toddlers and preschoolers through COVID-19
- University of Western Ontario: Keeping children safe during the COVID-19 pandemic
For Indigenous peoples
Hope for Wellness Helpline offers mental health counselling and crisis intervention for Indigenous peoples across Canada.
Provincial, territorial and community-based resources
Vaccines and immunizations
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