By: Chandra Ashton, Mental Health Therapist

Now that schools across Alberta have closed, how do we minimize the stress that children are experiencing? With changes of routine comes stress, and children are particularly vulnerable to this. Parents can sometimes become distracted by their own fears and concerns and forget to support their children. Here are some ideas to support children through times of stress and change:

  1. As much as possible, keep to routine. Maintain your family’s normal times for waking up, meals, bathing and bedtime. Plan a schedule for your day that includes school work, reading, crafting and creating, going for walks, dancing and singing. Choose activities that allow children to have uninterrupted time with their parents or caregivers, just like they would experience in a school or daycare environment.
  2. Keep calm and breathe. Children—and all humans and animals—co-regulate. They will do okay if you are doing okay. Talk out your concerns and fear with other adults and problem-solve together. The more calm, collected and resourceful you are, the more calm, collected and resourceful your child is.
  3. Talk about what’s happening. Children typically don’t watch the news. They will not understand what is happening. School doesn’t get cancelled every day, so this is a big change for children. Open up about what’s happening in an age-appropriate way, and let kids know that you are always there to answer questions. You can start off by explaining why schools have closed and how contagious illnesses work. If the media talks about deaths happening because of COVID-19, children will think that anyone who gets it will die. Ask your child what they think is happening and go from there. Refer to this resource for talking about COVID-19 with children under age 7 – the resource is available in multiple languages.
  4. Make room for anxiety. Children will hide anxiety in disruptive behaviour, nightmares, repetitive behaviours, bad attitudes, bed wetting and tantrums. By remaining calm and  understanding in response to children’s disruptive behaviour masking anxiety, we will help them through it. Laughter releases the same energy stored in anxiety, so be sure to laugh, play, tickle and dance — get it all out and make room for tears. Tears help the brain adapt to change and there is a lot of change going on right now.

Additional COVID-19 Information

  • See how Terra’s services are affected by COVID-19 and for all of the latest Terra-related updates.
  • Visit the Alberta Health Services website for information related to:
    • COVID-19 symptoms
    • What to do if you think you may have COVID-19
    • How to prepare an emergency plan for your household
    • The latest public health restrictions
    • Prevention strategies, including personal hygiene best-practices
    • How to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.