How to talk with your kids about the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What do I do with the kids?

Right now, your job is to stay calm, and ease your child’s worries

Most of us at Pathstone are parents, just like you and understand how challenging this time can be with not only school being out for longer than anticipated but also dealing with easing our children’s fears of what is occurring globally as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

First and foremost it is important that we as adults’ role model effectively how to deal with what is occurring around us. Our children look to us as examples and this pandemic can be a strong demonstration of how we came together as a society to support one another and made decisions that were in the best interests of all.

Our Agency has already posted ways in which you can talk to your children about COVID-19 / Coronavirus 

While a State of Emergency for Ontario sounds scary, explain to your children that these are measures to protect us. Teach them what social distancing means (1-2 metres apart) and why it’s important.

Talking about why their March break camp has been cancelled, large gathering spaces have closed, and why their favorite restaurant wants you to take your meal home, instead of dining in will help them better understand how they can do their part to keep our community as safe and as healthy as possible.

Ask your child questions like,

  • What have you heard about the virus?
  • Is there anything that you are worried about (future)?

This is your opportunity to hear their concerns and correct any misinformation.

Limiting how much they see about the outbreak on TV or devices is also a good idea.

As their guardian it is your job to ease their worries and assure them that we must stay calm and practice kindness.

Mr. Rogers always taught us to “look for the helpers.”

Be sure to thank cashiers who are continuing to work at our local grocery stores. Check on an elderly neighbour and even offer to pick up some essentials if they need them.

Simple acts of kindness go a long way of maintaining calm during the storm and we must remain calm.

There is always light in the darkness no matter how difficult it seems in the moment. Instead of looking at things we can’t do because of the outbreak, look at the things you can do, because there is some extra time.

Go for a hike, take the dog for a walk, play games, go jump on the trampoline!

Embrace the opportunity over the next few weeks to share some time with the people you love the most and get to know them a little better. Reconnect with your teens who often don’t want to talk. They may desire engagement from you.

Do you know what your Love Language is? How about the kids?

Take the quiz and have fun expressing love and kindness in someone else’s Language.

There is a free quiz for singles, couples, kids and teens!

https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/

And for a final dose of fun, over the next few weeks, why not try and check off all of the activities we have listed below!

  • Play board games / card games, like Go Fish, Memory, Crazy 8’s
  • Charades & Pictionary are fun “family team” ones too
  • Read books or tell stories
  • Have a dance off, Karaoke party or comedy night!
  • Colour, draw, paint all are very therapeutic
  • Journal daily, and as a family you share what you wrote if you would like to
  • Baking/ cooking together is fun. Follow a recipe or make up one!
  • Cell phone free dining makes for great family and one-on-one time
  • PLAY with your kids
  • Build with Legos
  • Create with Play-Doh, or make some homemade slime.
  • Clean out junk drawers and do some other Spring cleaning around the house
  • Sort through photos, prints or digital and make a family scrapbook
  • Outdoor time is essential, 90-minutes a day would be extraordinary
  • Shoot some hoops, jump on the trampoline, ride bikes or take a walk
  • Sidewalk chalk the driveway
  • Go for a hike in the woods. Niagara offers a lot trails.
  • Get creative – Arts & Crafts. Make homemade cards, bracelets even macaroni or string art
  • Watch a movie
  • Don’t forget to take the dog out!
  • Smile, laugh and enjoy each other’s time

Recommendations from Pathstone Mental Health:

How to keep your family balanced and connected at home through the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Do your best to provide consistency and structure. Get dressed every day and maintain adequate sleep and bedtime routines too!
  • Make a daily schedule. Ideally you should involve your kids in the development of their schedule
  • Find a balance of learning, creative and physical activities
  • Permit your kids to have social connectedness time with peers through Apps and Social Media (continue to monitor sites & conversations your kids are having)
  • Have connected family time
  • Come up with projects to work on together

Although we can’t always control what happens to us as human beings we do get to choose how we react and think about what happens.

As parents and therapists, we at Pathstone see this as an opportunity to strengthen our relationships with our kids and that is great for everyone’s mental health.

Wishing you wellness,
The team at Pathstone Mental Health/ Pathstone Foundation


The most up to date information about the virus and risk of Niagara residents can be found here.

When talking to your kids about the Coronavirus it is important to:

  • Be open to the conversation and not afraid to discuss it. Kids worry more when they are kept in the dark. Your goal is to help your child feel informed and get fact-based information.  It’s important for you to stay informed by your local agencies/hospitals on the most up to date facts. *see above links
  • Take cues from your child. Invite them to tell you about what they have heard and how they feel. Give lots of opportunity for them to ask questions.  Avoid encouraging frightening fantasies.
  • Recognize when YOU are feeling anxious: If you are feeling anxious or panicked, that is not the time to talk with your child. Take some time to calm down, and remember to keep informed of the local context and facts most relevant to your community.
  • Be re-assuring: It is helpful to reassure your child that kids actually have milder symptoms, and of the low risk rate in Niagara (remember to stay informed of current risk rate/case identification).
  • Remind them on how they can keep themselves safe: Reminders about hand washing with soap and water after coming in from outside, before they eat, and after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing, or using the bathroom.  Encourage them to wash for 20 seconds by finding favourite song choruses to sing that last 20 seconds (ie: Happy Birthday twice or Wheels on the Bus).  If kids ask about face masks explain that the experts say they are not necessary for most people.
  • Stick to routine: Make sure you have structured days with regular mealtimes and bedtimes even if schools/daycares close.
  • Keep the conversation going: Make sure you tell your children you will keep them updated and give them all of the up to date information as you get it. Keep the lines of communication open.

*Tip Sheet adapted from Child Mind Institute: a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental illness.

pmdesignHow to talk with your kids about the Coronavirus (COVID-19)