Staying Healthy

To all the parents and caregivers out there: you are doing an amazing job! Remember to take a moment for yourself, to breath, stretch, whatever you need to keep being your best self. Hang in there and keep up the great work!

Positive health and wellness starts at home. By staying active, eating healthy, connecting with friends and family, and being mindful, you are supporting lifelong wellness. It may be challenging without access to certain supports that are typically found in childcare centres, schools, and family programs. You can help your family stay healthy, physically active, and emotionally healthy. Consider the information and resources below as you make choices for your family.

Physical Wellness

Parents and caregivers have an important role to play in their child’s health, whether it be learning a new skill or helping their child make healthy food choices. Make time as a family for daily physical activity at the correct intensity level, and choose healthy meals and snacks. These will help improve physical fitness, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase focus, academic performance, and your child’s quality of life.

Have you ever wondered how much movement your child should be doing in a day? You can check out the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology’s (CSEP) Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth for recommendations. Typically, children and youth need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily. Finding ways to stay active and limiting sedentary (sitting) behaviours can support your child’s health. Too much screen time can lead to physical inactivity, interfere with school work, increase snacking, and disrupt sleep. When possible, be active outdoors while continuing social distancing.

Many families are spending more time together and will have many opportunities to teach health skills and discuss topics related to staying healthy. Some of the topics that may arise may include ideas about nutrition, hygiene, sleep, and exercise.

How can you encourage your child to stay physically active?

  • Explain to your kids that sitting less and moving more will help them feel great and stay healthy.
  • Encourage opportunities for your child to explore different types of activities, challenges, or movement skills rather than daily training regimes. Focusing on fundamental skills such as running, jumping, throwing or catching is especially important for younger children.
  • Think about the use of spaces in and around your home and the use of common household materials. Something as simple as a cardboard box can be used to create an activity. Use many different spaces and materials, such as recycled paper products, soup cans, or a broomstick. Be creative, be fun, be safe! View this equipment replacement list, for ideas of how to use common household items to support children’s physical activity.
  • Find activities that are fun, increase the heart rate, and keep children playing. The number one reason why children participate in physical activity and sport is because it is fun and engaging.
  • Set limits on screen time for you and your child, but do not use screen time as a reward or punishment. It makes it seem more important to children.
  • Plan family outings that involve physical activities or think of opportunities for active transportation. For example, if the playground is a 10-15 minute walk, choose to walk or ride your bikes, instead of taking a car.
  • Children will model your behavior, so be sure to set a positive example and be physically active yourself.

Physical Education/Health Education Resources

Physical and Health Education Canada Home Learning Centre: Try these practical and fun health education activities for Early Years, Middle Years, and Senior Years students. Activities are organized into physical activities, healthy eating, and emotional well-being.

ParticipACTION: Explore these tips for staying active and healthy. Explore the physical activity report card for children and youth.

Manitoba Healthy Schools: Explore six health topics that support student wellness.

Active for Life Resources for Parents: View these resources to help your child develop physical literacy. This site provides hundreds of examples of home-based physical activities for children.

Gopher Sports PE At-Home: View blogs, videos, and other at-home learning resources to stay active and have fun.

APPLE Schools Home Challenges: Try these family-centered challenges that are fun and promote staying healthy. Begin the Family Olympics Challenge or join in with Fun in the Sun with Vita-Man D!

DancePL3Y (Dance play): Turn on these YouTube dance videos for inspiration and to boost mental health and activity.

Dark Horse Athletic Challenge: Try these 40 fun and safe video challenges for elementary children to stay active and foster a love of physical activity and a growth mindset.

Fan Lit: Explore this Manitoba-based resource to support children and youth as they learn about food and nutrition.

PBS Kids Careers in Health and Physical Education: Explore many careers that help people live healthy, balanced lives, such as genetic counsellors, biomedical engineers, and others. You can search for information by grade.

Yoga for Children: Try these yoga and mindfulness moves for kids aged 3+.

Go Noodle: This site provides movement and mindfulness videos created by child development experts.

Living True Sport: Use these family-friendly activities to stay active and develop physical and ethical literacy.

Social and Emotional Wellness

Caring for your child’s wellness is the most important priority. They may be affected by recent changes in many ways. There are many things you can do at home to help support your child’s social and emotional wellness.

How might my child respond to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Children react in their own ways to challenging situations. They may react to stress, family worries, the moods of people around them, changes in routines, and the bad news they hear in media. Your child’s response to the pandemic will depend on their age, their level of awareness and understanding about the pandemic, and their physical or emotional nearness to an infected person or outbreak. Also, their experience with traumatic events in the past can affect how they respond.

Some children and youth may not tell you directly how they feel, but you may notice changes in their behaviour that reflect how they are feeling inside. These changes can include:

  • headaches, tummy aches, and nervous habits such as nail biting, hair twisting, or sighing deeply
  • mood changes such as being irritable, crying easily, being unable to settle down, and acting out (yelling, hitting, throwing things)
  • not acting in an age-appropriate way, such as starting to suck their thumb or wetting themselves
  • withdrawing or daydreaming

How can I support my child’s social and emotional health?

Create a safe, positive home environment. Be aware of your child’s media use, both in terms of content and time spent on screens. Screen time to do school work or communicate with friends is helpful, but there should still be lots of time for off-screen activities. Be careful not to discuss important issues such as financial problems in front of your kids. Children tend to worry about these things.

Listen and respect their feelings. Reach out to your child and share the Kids Help Phone website and phone number. It is okay for children and youth to feel sad or angry. Encourage them to talk about how they feel. Keep communication open by asking questions and listening to your child. Mealtime can be a good time for talking. One suggestion for mealtime discussions is to have children write topics or questions beforehand that they would like to talk about, and then take turns choosing their discussion topics.

Create a sense of belonging. It is important that children feel connected and welcomed through transitions. This support helps them to build trust in others and themselves. Spend time with your child doing fun things together, and help your child build strong, positive relationships with their siblings, friends, and teachers.

Encourage good health habits. Good physical health supports good overall health. Model healthy eating habits, regular physical activity, and enough sleep to protect your child against the stress of tough situations. Regular physical activity helps your child decrease negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, and depression. The CSEP’s Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines recommend that children aged 4 to 17 should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day, along with several hours of light physical activity (structured or unstructured).

How can I help my child understand the situation, be safe, and feel comforted during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Strengthen your connection with your child by being supportive and understanding. Provide your child with accurate information they can understand. Check out Caring for Kids, CBC Health, PBS for Parents, and The Globe and Mail for ways to talk to your child about the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Discuss COVID-19 stories and information that is created by or for kids.

    My Hero is You, Storybook for Children on COVID-19: Enjoy this heart-warming, beautifully illustrated book, aimed at 6-11 year olds. The book explains how children can protect themselves, their families and friends from coronavirus and how to manage difficult emotions during these complex times. It is available in many languages.

    Coronavirus, A Book for Children: Read this book by Nosy Crow created for children and their families to answer key questions about the science of viruses and the rules of physical distancing.

    Kids Help Phone Resources: Choose from many articles and tools for children and youth.

    CBC Kids: View this short video on social distance created by a teen.

    A Courageous Guide for Curious Kids: View this guide in Italian, English, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Bulgarian, Albanian, BCS, Arabic, Persian, or Turkish.

    Something Strange Happened in My City: A COVID-19 Social Story for Young Children: This story about the coronavirus was developed by California State University to help children understand the changes they are seeing around them during the pandemic.

    Time to Come In, Bear: A Children's Story about Social Distancing: This short video, created by children's educator Kim St. Lawrence, provides young children with an explanation of why social distancing is now necessary.

  • Model healthy skills, attitudes, and behaviours for children and youth. There are many ways to reduce risk of COVID-19 and ways to slow the spread with social distancing. Some of these healthy behaviours will prevent the spread of the virus, such as:
    • staying home
    • washing hands thoroughly
    • social (physical) distancing
    • covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when coughing or sneezing
  • Take care of yourself for your own well-being and others. Making sure to practise self-care and wellness strategies will help improve your energy and ability to cope, leaving you better able to support those who need you. For tips on staying well, check out Managing Stress during COVID-19, Anxiety Canada and the World Health Organization's Healthy At Home.

Tips for Young Children

How can you help your child learn to manage and label their feelings? While you know your child best, here are some things you can think about:

Encourage play. It is therapeutic.

  • Let’s pretend! As your child acts out a story, they are learning about themselves and their feelings, and the feelings of those around them. Pull out puppets, stuffed animals, small toys and dolls, or clothes and hats to ‘dress-up’ with.
  • Water play can be a fun part of the daily routine, such as bathtub before bed. You can also fill up the kitchen sink or a basin on a table with water, bubbles, and plastic cups, funnels, etc., for your children to enjoy.

Help your child self-regulate and learn to deal with emotions and frustrations.

  • Reframe the way you think about your child’s behaviour during this time. Practise compassion instead of reaction.
  • Help your child find words to describe their feelings, and talk about your own feelings and those of others. Let your child know feelings are okay and praise them when they self-regulate. Having your child keep a journal to record what they think or feel each day helps your child express themselves.
  • Teach clear positive expectations every day. For example, if you have to be on a work call, what do you expect your child to do during this time?
  • Model and discuss reasons for desired behaviours. Why are we washing our hands more often (and singing the Happy Birthday song while we do so)?
  • Practise learning to control one’s breath, such as by blowing bubbles or blowing paint onto paper through a straw.
  • Assist with language by labelling actions, feelings, and emotions, such as “You look like you need a hug right now. Would that help you feel a little better?”
  • Provide a comfortable place for your child to take a break and calm down. This is not a time-out.

Offer your child sensory comfort when they feel upset, scared, or anxious.

Dr. Eileen Feliciano suggests these kinds of experiences can bring comfort to your child:

  • Touch: a soft blanket or favourite stuffed animal
  • Taste: a cup of hot chocolate or chicken soup
  • Sight: looking at photos together of a family vacation or celebration
  • Hearing: soft, calming music that you can listen to together
  • Smell: sage, lavender, or eucalyptus oil; home-baked cookies
  • Movement: a small swing or rocking chair
  • Perio-ceptive: a weighted blanket or pillow, big hugs, back rubs

Consider giving the okay for your children to express their feelings in many ways.

Your child may want to pound modelling clay when they are upset, or they may wish to use their biggest, loudest voice to shout, “I miss grandma and grandpa! I want to go to see them!”

Read books together—particularly books that describe feelings.

You can ask your child questions about the character in the story. For example, “Why was Alexander having such a terrible day?” “What was Franklin so afraid about?” These talks help your child consider feelings and even develop empathy for others.

Tips for Teens

Your teen may feel confined to home during the COVID-19 crisis, and this may present parenting challenges. Here are some additional tips for parenting teenagers during this time:

Emphasize social distancing.

Adolescents may not always comply with the guidelines for social (physical) distancing. They may not think they are at risk for becoming sick themselves, or they may be unaware of how they may put others at risk. Have conversations with your teen and model good behaviour.

Understand their frustration over not seeing friends.

Friends are a very important part of teens’ lives. Your child may feel frustrated about not being able to be with their friends. Their feelings of frustration are real and need to be heard and acknowledged. Encourage them to think of creative ways to interact socially and cope through changes.

Support remote schooling.

Your teen may struggle with new ways of learning with teachers from a distance. Help them create a realistic schedule for getting work done in defined periods, building in breaks for socializing, exercising, and entertainment. Commend them for developing excellent organizational skills, time management skills, technology skills, and work-life balance skills that will help them in their schoolwork and in future jobs.

Encourage healthy habits.

Help your teen develop positive habits to cope with stress, including getting adequate sleep, eating healthy meals, exercising regularly, and participating in activities they enjoy. You have a key role in helping your teen see the benefits of health and wellness in maintaining a positive mood and improving their ability to fulfill life expectations.

Validate their disappointment and feelings.

Your teen will face many disappointments, as will the rest of the family. They will feel sadness as they grieve the loss of important life experiences that they were really looking forward to. Parents can help with this grieving process by providing opportunities to give their child space, share their feelings, and listen without judgment. Be understanding, acknowledge the stress they may be under, and express confidence in their ability to rebound.

Moving to a “new normal” is teachable. Help your teen apply the strengths they have gained for their learning and development.

Help them to practise mindfulness.

Practising mindfulness can teach your child to tune into their emotions and experience them without judgment, especially during times of frustration and disappointment. Building self-compassion is a crucial life lesson to help adolescents deal with stress, anxiety, and the emotions attached to challenging situations they will face throughout their lives.

If your teen is struggling with anxiety and depression, intervene. Reach out for help. You and your child can connect to the Kids Help Phone and get help from others, such as teachers or family doctors.

Additional Mental Wellness Resources for Teens

Teen Talk: Explore these taking care during Covid-19 resources including self-care suggestions, community supports, and stress reduction activities. You can also check out these activity books for youth created for teens in Winnipeg and Westman.