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Supporting children during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Here are a range of strategies that can help you connect and communicate with your child.

Child hugging parent

Managing emotions

Let your child feel their emotions

Children are experiencing a lot of uncertainty and change and may be upset or disappointed by social distancing measures. Things like cancelled birthday parties, playdates, sleepovers, and even postponed visits to grandparents may be causing distress.

Children may feel sad, angry, scared, confused or worried about what is going to happen next. It is important we allow children to feel and express normal, healthy emotions, particularly those around grief and loss. 

 

Be curious

Check in with your child by asking questions

There is a lot of information circulating about COVID-19. Consider checking in about what your child already knows and using this as a starting point to discuss COVID-19. It is important to encourage open dialogue when speaking with your child and allow them to feel comfortable asking questions. 

If your child has questions you can’t answer, use the opportunity to explore the answers together. Use websites of trusted organisations like the Australian Department of Health or the World Health Organization.
 

Be calm and proactive

Communicate with your child

It’s important that parents take a calm and proactive approach when talking with their children about COVID-19. This may include talking about the possibility that you or your child may start to feel symptoms at some point, which are often very similar to the common cold or flu.

Encourage your child to voice if they're not feeling well, or if they are feeling worried about the virus. Reiterate that it doesn’t mean they have done anything wrong if they start to feel unwell. 

Show empathy and demonstrate that it's understandable if they are feeling nervous and worried about COVID-19. We can remind children there are many things we can do to keep ourselves and others safe. Teaching them how to wash their hands properly and how to social distance can help them feel involved and more in control. 
 

It's ok to "switch off" and take time out

There is a lot of information out there about COVID-19 coming from a multitude of platforms, which can be really overwhelming. Take cues from your children and role model “switching off” devices and platforms and take time out. Some great ways to "switch off" include: 

 Family movie night

Board games

Puzzles

Cooking

Art

Gardening

Dancing

Going for a walk or kicking a ball

Develop a routine

Structure and boundaries are important

Before COVID-19, routines often centred around school and work. Routines have changed and may continue to change as the situation progresses, particularly for those who are quarantined or in lockdown.

Routine will look different for every family and requires an element of flexibility. A routine for the day could incorporate things like schoolwork, play time (both inside and outside), time on technology, time to chat online with friends, chores and family time. 

Developing a routine could be a fun activity to do with your kids and give them a sense of ownership and control at a time they may not feel they have any. Make sure you review your routine in a few weeks’ time and check in with your children about how they think the routine is going.

It is also important to give yourself and your children some time for comfort. If you need to, stay with the activity that is bringing the most joy for the family or remove the schedule completely for the day. Do what works best for you and your family. 

"Just like the earth needs the sun, a child needs their parent or caregiver more than anything right now. Be their sun, connect with them, provide guidance and help keep them on course."

- Jolanda, Parentline Community Engagement Officer

Check in with yourself

Your wellbeing is important too

Children rely on their parents to provide a sense of safety and security. When parents are feeling anxious children pick up on their emotional cues. In particular, stress can impact upon emotional responses. It’s important for parents to do what they can to manage their anxiety by not oversharing their fears with their children. This may mean withholding overtly distressing emotions when in front of the child – which may be hard at times. Choose the right audience to have your emotional needs met.

Accept and ask for help

Parents do best when they are supported

This content was last reviewed 26/03/2020

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