It’s important to recognize that children take their cues from adults during stressful events, says the Grand Erie District School Board (GEDSB). If parents seem overly worried, your children will react to and follow both your verbal and nonverbal reactions.
Children need factual, age-appropriate information about the potential seriousness of the ongoing pandemic and concrete instruction on how to avoid infection and prevent spread of disease.
Make time for your children to talk about their concerns, fears, thoughts and questions. Remain calm and reassuring in your words and tone. Help them re-frame their thoughts and feelings based on safety, security and fact-based knowledge.
Early elementary school children need clear and concise information that should balance facts about COVID-19 with appropriate reassurances that their homes are safe and that adults are there to take care of them.
Older elementary school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what will happen if COVID-19 comes to their community. They may need assistance separating reality from rumour. Discuss the efforts made by school, community and government leaders to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.
Secondary school students are able to discuss the issue in a more in-depth fashion and can be referred directly to appropriate sources of COVID-19 facts. Provide honest, accurate, and factual information about the current status of COVID-19. Having such knowledge can help them gain a greater sense of control.
Limit television viewing or access to information on the Internet and through social media. Tell them how stories about COVID-19 on the Internet may be based on rumours and inaccurate information.
Try to avoid watching or listening to information that might be upsetting when your children are present. Constantly watching updates on the status of COVID-19 will increase anxiety. Also, developmentally inappropriate information (i.e., information designed for adults) can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children.
Meanwhile, engage your child in games or other interesting activities. Keep to a regular schedule while respecting safety and social distancing, as this can be reassuring and promotes physical health and well-being.
Create a family schedule and ‘to do’ lists with your children, including jobs around the home such as organizing cupboards, sorting toys, clothes, belongings and fun activities like board games, movies, walks, and video games.
Encourage your children to keep up with learning activities that you can do at home. Create a designated quiet space in your home for your children and youth to do school work.
Practice everyday good hygiene – simple steps to prevent the spread of illness such as washing hands multiple times a day for at least 20 seconds. Practice giving fist or elbow bumps instead of handshakes to spread fewer germs; emphasize to sneeze or cough into the bend of the elbow. Do not share food or drinks.
Encourage your child to eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly; this will help them develop a strong immune system to fight off any illness.
Keep social connection with extended family and close friends through technology – video, phone calls, or texting.