It's safe to say that this March has been a bit different than many of you were hoping. The arrival of coronavirus—specifically called COVID-19—has brought about great changes to our daily lives.
A new practice known as social distancing, or physical distancing, has meant that most of your parents are working from home, that places such as movie theatres and museums are off-limits, and that we're unable to visit with friends and even extended family.
It's perfectly natural to have questions and concerns during a time like this. And we've found someone who can really help. Abbiesha is a counsellor with Kids Help Phone. Since 1989, this toll-free and online service has existed to give young Canadians someone to talk to about, well, anything!
Lately, Abbiesha and her colleagues have been talking a lot with kids about the coronavirus. She was kind enough to talk with us about it, too. Here's what we discussed ...
Abbiesha talks kids and COVID-19
OWLconnected: What are the most common questions that you receive from kids about COVID-19?
Abbiesha: They are...
- How do I practice social distancing?
- Why are events being cancelled?
- How can I prevent getting infected?
- Should I wear a mask?
- Is it safe to go out in public (e.g. ride the bus)?
- How do I know if I have just a cold or Covid-19?
OC: We're asking ourselves those things, too! What is your advice?
A: It’s okay to feel afraid or sad, you are not alone.
While all of these emotions are normal, it’s common to feel a little uneasy about what could happen next. Here are some things you can do right now to cope.
- Breathe deep: Breathing exercises can help your body relax and your mind focus on one thing at a time. Try taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Ground yourself: Grounding techniques can help you regain control of your mind and body by using your senses to feel more connected to what’s around you right now. Focus on what you can see, touch, hear, taste, and smell.
- Fact check: If the news is stressing you out, you can do a little extra digging into the stories, just to make sure what you’re worried about is true and accurate. You can read up on media literacy to help you sort out what’s real and what’s not.
- Try to unplug: Sometimes, it can help to unplug from your devices and limit your screen time for a while.
- Focus on the present: Drawing your attention to the here and now and taking things one day, one hour, or even one minute at a time can help. Try to focus on what you can control/change and less on what’s out of your hands.
- Make a list: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try looking at the different areas of the future that are bugging you. Write these things down in a list, and brainstorm what you can do now to make the future a little less scary.
- Talk it out: Sharing your feelings with someone you trust (e.g. a friend, elder, parent/caregiver, counsellor, etc.) can help you release stress and feel heard. The person you talk to may also be able to help you decide on ways to cope with uneasiness and you can make a plan for the future together.
- Be kind to yourself: It’s important to show yourself love, kindness, and compassion (a.k.a. self-care). You can do this by giving yourself an encouraging word or doing something you enjoy. Take a break to play a game, read a book, try arts and crafts, or do anything else that makes you feel good.
Finally, if you are looking for more information on COVID-19, we encourage you to visit the Government of Canada’s website.
You can also visit KidsHelpPhone.ca and try out a worry rocket or breathing balloon tool that will help you with whatever else is bugging you!
OC: What do you think is the most complex part of dealing with this outbreak as a kid?
A: The most complex part of dealing with this outbreak as a kid is experiencing feelings of fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones. For example, watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting and overwhelming.
OC: How do you define social distancing? Do you have to be indoors all the time?
Social distancing is a way that we can slow the spread of COVID-19 by limiting close contact with others. Even though we are not sick, we should still keep a fair distance from one another when we are outside of our homes.
There are many ways to practice social distancing:
- Limit activities outside your home
- Use virtual options to connect with others (like video chat or texting)
- If you are outside, keep 2 metres (6 feet) between yourself and others
- Keep your hands at your side when possible
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cough into your elbow or sleeve
OC: Why is it so important to practice this?
A: This is important as it can slow the rate of infection in a city, town, or community. The pandemic can seem overwhelming, but in truth, every person can help slow down the spread of COVID-19. By doing your part, you can make a big difference to your health, and that of others around you.
OC: How do you recommend staying positive and energized while being so isolated, especially from friends and extended family that we're used to seeing often?
A: My advice is to ...
- Maintain a connection with the people you love, even if it can’t be a physical one (e.g. try using a video chat tool, like FaceTime!)
- Be sure to schedule these interactions
- Practice self-care (what is something you've been wanting to do for yourself and haven't had the chance to do?)
- Continue regular therapy/maintaining support through other means, if it's not accessible in person (for example, reaching out to Kids Help Phone!)
OC: What's become your own favourite activity during this quarantine?
A: My favourite activity during this time has been playing games with my family and playing with my dog. :)
The PM speaks!
We appreciate that talk, Abbiesha. We feel better already! If you would like to speak with a Kids Help Phone counsellor, you can reach out by calling their toll-free number (1-800-668-6868), or chat with a counsellor on the Kids Help Phone website. Counsellors are available 24/7.
If you need a little extra message of hope, we recommend watching this recent video from Prime Minister Trudeau. Remember, every little thing that you're doing helps.
Stay strong out there, everyone!