COVID -19 Series: Elementary Navigating Worry and Fear
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April 6, 2020
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Helping Children Navigate Worry and Fear

Navigating Worry and Fear
For millions of adults around the world, life has changed dramatically in the last few weeks. Many have lost jobs and therefore a stable source of income. Most have been asked to practice social distancing, while some are sheltering in place. Some are sick or in quarantine, or tending to ill loved ones.

Life for children has changed drastically as well. Most are home from school or daycare, with no clear idea of when they‘ll be back. Many can‘t go to playgrounds, see friends, or visit grandparents anymore. And unlike adults, who at least can read and understand the news, many children may struggle to grasp what‘s going on.

Not all children respond to worry in the same way. Some common changes to watch for include:

Excessive crying or irritation in younger children  
Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example bed wetting)
Excessive worry or sadness
Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
Irritability and “acting out” behaviors
More refusal to cooperate than usual
Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
Unexplained headaches or body pain
Difficulty with attention and concentration

There are steps parents can take to help children navigate this crisis. Before talking to kids, especially young ones, parents need to do their best to handle their own worries and stress.

Please call your healthcare provider if worry and stress have been getting in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.

Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media
. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. Consider setting a specific time each day for consuming information and avoid repeated checking. It fuels anxiety.

Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, get outside as much as possible, get as much sleep as possible, avoid or minimize substance use. 

Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy. 

Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. Virtual connection with others can improve mood and lower stress.

If you are parenting alone reach out to others for support and help with tasks like picking up groceries or virtual visits with your children (read them a story) and access Community Services when appropriate (some are listed below). 

There are many things you can do to support your child

Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.

TRY to keep up with regular routines. While schools are closed create a schedule of learning activities as well as fun and relaxing activities. 
Take time to talk with your child about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID19 in a way that your child  can understand.

Acknowledge that it’s normal to feel some anxiety right now, and that you’re feeling it, too. Encourage your child to talk about their fears. Putting a worry into words makes it more manageable. Your goal is to “catch” the worries early before they blow out of proportion and become full-fledge fears. 
We recognize that many parents are feeling overwhelmed with all that they are being tasked to do in addition to the many worries and fears they may be facing. The verse below may help you realize that strong emotions are normal during these times and that you are not alone
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 Whatever their age, a lot of kids have questions right now, whether it's about why they need to wash their hands so much, when they'll be able to see friends and grandparents again or when they can go back to school.


These are probably the scariest questions on a lot of kids‘ minds right now. It‘s important not to minimize kids‘ fears or tell them there‘s no possibility they or their family will get sick, because unfortunately that‘s not true. What you can say is that you are doing everything you know of to make sure everyone in the family stays as healthy as possible and that, “if we get sick, then we‘re going to do everything we know how to do to make sure we get better again.” You can also point to people in the community who are helping keep others safe and healthy. For example, parents can tell kids, “our doctors and our nurses are working really, really hard to make sure that everybody, if they do get sick, can get better again.”

You can also emphasize the things your family is doing to stay as healthy as possible, like washing hands or avoiding social gatherings.


Get moving!

-  Get outside whenever possible

-  Daily dance party whenever, wherever

-  YThrive Grow offers 15 minute low impact 
   workouts for 8-13 year olds 
-  PE with Joe 

Have some fun!

-  Art lessons 

-  Remember board games!

-  Bake some cookies

-  Cupcake decorating contest

-  Mindfulness activities 


When the Virus Came  written by a SD 61 Counsellor in response to COVID-19. There is an activity embedded in the story around stringing beads. It‘s an idea to help children remember all the goodness that is happening in the midst of everything that feels so scary and unknown right now. Activity Instructions

Story about Social Distancing from Social Stories for Kids.  This social story helps to explain the COVID-19 virus to children. It defines social distancing and provides examples of places and activities to avoid while the virus is still spreading. It outlines several activities that children can do at home while social distancing is in effect.
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 Community Services

Mental and Physical Health Resources for Families: 

IMCRT (Integrated Mobile Crisis Response Team):  

Individuals in crisis can call the Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1-888-484-3888 and the staff will support and offer crisis intervention options.  

Pediatric Mental Health Services VGH: 

Please call the VGH switchboard at 250-727-4212 and ask for the Crisis Team if you feel your child (under 17) is at the point of needing to come to ER for mental health reasons.  Staff would like to plan ahead, to avoid close physical contact if at all possible.  

Mental Health Services Jubilee: 

Please call the Jubille switchboard at and ask for the Crisis Team if you are feeling your child (17 and over) is at the point of needing to come to ER for mental health reasons.  Staff would like to plan ahead, to avoid close physical contact if at all possible.

Youth Empowerment Society:

All outreach workers are maintaining contact with youth through video conferencing, text  and phone.  The Alliance Club is open 12 - 6pm, Monday through Thursday.  They are taking new referrals, but no face to face meetings. Detox is still available in a modified capacity.  Kiwanis Youth Shelter is still accepting 24 hour intake.

Neighbourhood Houses: 

All Neighbourhood Houses are only offering essential services and have limited staff on site.  They ask that you call first, so that safe physical space can be maintained.
Burnside Gorge: 250-388-5251
Saanich: 250-360-1148
Fairfield Gonzales:  250-382-4604
James Bay: 250-388-7844
Quadra:  250-388-7696
Esquimalt:  250-385-2635
Fernwood:  250-381-1552

Island Sexual Health: 

M-F from 9 - 4pm: Offering phone/video access to Dr/nurses and sexual health services.  Pleae call ahead for an appointment time at 250-592-3479, or text a sexual health question to 250-812-9374

The Foundry:

M - F phones are answered at 10:30am as they work to best serve youth.   There are limited in-person interactions and they are moving towards telehealth and phone communication.  Services still offered include communication with: Doctors, Nurses, Counselling, Peer Support and Outreach.  

Child and Youth Mental Health: 

Victoria, Saanich and Aboriginal Child and Youth Mental Health are still accepting referrals and conducting intakes (by phone), and continue to work with current clients and families by phone, email, and soon via Skype Business.  At the moment, all groups are postponed.


Discovery Services is still supporting clients but through video, texting and phone.  They are still accepting new referrals.  Families can directly refer or can contact the school counsellor.

Ministry of Children and Families:

The Ministry of Children and Families continue to provide support to families, although the medium may be by phone or online,  and they  will continue to respond to protection concerns.  Please call Centralized Screening at 1-800-663-9122 if you think a child or youth is being abused.

Victoria Native Friendship Centre:

Essential services will continue including daycare, shelter, and homelessness outreach.  Plans are also being made for food hampers for community members connected to a program who may struggle during our time of reduced service.  If you require food supports, or want to confirm if the service you access available, please contact your VNFC Outreach/Support Worker or reception:

Needs2 Suicide Prevention Education and Support:

NEEDS2 offers support and crisis response for youth through live chat, text, discussion forums, and through Youth talk email counselling.  Chat hours are between 6 pm and midnight.  Call 250-386-6328 or visit
 Learning Resources

 Learning Resources for Students with Complex Needs

Food Resources for Families 

The following sites are providing food resources; please call for specific times and services:
Salvation Army ARC250-384-3396
Stan Hagen Centre250-386-8521
Living Edge250-383-8915
St Vincent de Paul:  250-382-0712
9-10 Club778-440-7687
Rainbow Kitchen250-384-2069
Mustard Seed250-953-1575
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We acknowledge that much of the content from this document is extracted from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and How to answer7 big questions kids have about the coronoavirus pandemic.
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