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Parenting during COVID: How to support your child during a pandemic

Parenting at any time can be challenging; parenting during COVID-19 can be even more stressful. Both you and your children may be feeling worried and overwhelmed. 
 
It can be hard to know how to talk to your child about COVID-19; how to best support your child as we all navigate disrupted routines and changes to home, school, and work life; and how to make sure you are taking care of yourself during this difficult time.
 
There are many things that you can do to support your child during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most important things you can do is stay calm and confident. Children and youth react, in part, to what they see from their parents and other adults around them. 
 
Below are some additional strategies for supporting your child, as well as how to manage challenging behaviour that may arise during this time.
 
  • Maintain a family day that has structure and elements of their ‘normal’ routine (plan activities, meals, quiet time, exercise, and sleep). For younger children, a visual schedule with pictures can be helpful. For older children, try co-creating this schedule. Teens can be encouraged to create their own schedule with parent input.
  • Try to do some fun things you might not normally have time to do (e.g. board games, cooking and eating meals together, arts and crafts).
  • Give your children some extra time and attention. This could include some special one-on-one time during the day, or extra cuddles at the end of the day.
  • Share with them your own strategies for dealing with stress so that your children can learn from you.
  • Monitor and restrict your child’s access to media about COVID-19 – just like for adults, constant information can feel overwhelming and add to stress.
  • Encourage social connection through virtual play dates and online connection to friends and family – while physical distancing is needed, social connections are crucial.
  • Encourage your kids to be helpers – As kids want to be helpful, tell them what they can do to help (e.g. washing their hands properly, helping out around the house), and how this makes a difference in the fight against COVID-19.
 
Managing Challenging Behaviour during COVID-19:
 
During this time, parents can expect to see some changes in their child’s behaviour. When children are stressed, it often comes out in their behaviour. This might look different depending on your child’s age, temperament, stress level, etc. Some common behaviour changes might include clinginess, getting upset more easily, withdrawing, being hyperactive, or having bad dreams. 

Some children might act ‘younger’ when they are stressed and may show behaviours from when they were younger (Ex: toileting accidents, bedwetting).
 
It’s OK and actually helpful for children when parents manage their behaviour in the way they normally would. This is another way that you can show a sense of “normal” for your child. This is also why taking care of yourself as a parent is important; you need energy and patience to help your child with their stress and behaviour. 
 
Supporting Children and Youth with Anxiety Disorders
 
During this COVID-19 pandemic, children and youth are having to cope with change almost daily. Routines like school, extracurricular activities, and socializing with friends have all been disrupted, and child and youth with anxiety disorders may find it especially challenging to adjust.
 

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