Social Emotional Supports for Parents/Guardians and Students

School re-entry following COVID-19 pandemic school closure can cause worry and heightened levels of anxiety for some children, youth and adults.

Children and youth look to the significant adults in their lives for guidance on how to manage their emotional reactions after an immediate threat is over. Through the support of caring adults, schools can be safe places that help students and their families return to regular activities and routines, and provide an opportunity to transform a frightening event into an experience that builds well-being and resiliency.  

Here are some tips to help support you:

Practice daily routines and schedules to help mitigate distress. Keep things as “normal” as possible. Bedtime and mealtime routines help kids feel safe and secure.  It’s easier for your child to adapt if you practise a school routine prior to returning to school.

Communicate with your children and support them in processing their thoughts and feelings.  Remember children will observe adult behaviors and emotions for cues on how to manage their own feelings and responses.

    • Promote a sense of safety - help them to re-establish their confidence in the world as a safe place.
    • Promote calming - help them to develop skills to achieve a relaxed physical and emotional state through techniques such as breathing, deep muscle relaxation, imagery and self-talk.  Here are some examples: 
    • Promote hope - help them focus on goals, build on strengths and have the confidence that things will work out reasonably well.  Children need to see the future to recover. Let them know that things are being done to keep them safe.

For example, you could say: “People from all over the community and in your school are doing their best to ensure your school and bus are clean and rules are in place for hygiene.  They’ve worked hard to try to ensure everyone is as safe as possible.”  

    • Make yourself available to listen and to talk to your children. Remain calm and reassuring. 
    • Give children information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child.
      • Elementary school children need brief, simple information that should balance COVID-19 facts with appropriate reassurances that  their homes are safe and that adults are there to help keep them healthy.  They may need assistance separating reality from rumor and fantasy.
      • Middle school and high school students are able to discuss the issue in a more in-depth (adult-like) 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 feel a sense of control.
    • Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma.
      • Remember that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity. Avoid making assumptions about who might have COVID-19.
    • Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online.
      • Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19 for all family members. Too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety.

Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs:.

    • cough or sneeze into a tissue or bend of their arm, not their hands.  Dispose of any used tissues as soon as possible in a lined wastebasket and wash hands
    • wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.  Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
    • avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hand
    • physically distance and minimize physical contact with others.  Due to age appropriateness, younger students should be supported to have minimized physical contact with one another, and older students and adults should seek to maintain a safe physical distance whenever possible.
    • avoid close greetings (eg. hugs, handshakes, high-fives, fist bumps).  Regularly remind them to keep their “hands to yourself”.