Basic Needs

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Emotional Support & Safety

Talking with Youth about COVID-19

Help Children Cope


Common Reactions

  • Fear of being alone, bad dreams
  • Speech difficulties 
  • Loss of bladder/bowel control, constipation, bed-wetting 
  • Change in appetite 
  • Increased temper tantrums, whining, or clinging behaviors

How to Help

  • Patience and tolerance
  • Provide reassurance (verbal and physical)
  • Encourage expression through play, reenactment, story-telling
  • Allow short-term changes in sleep arrangements
  • Plan calming, comforting activities before bedtime
  • Maintain regular family routines
  • Avoid media exposure

Source: National Child Traumatic Stress Network

School Age (6-12 years)

Common Reactions

  • Irritability, whining, aggressive behavior 
  • Clinging, nightmares 
  • Sleep/appetite disturbance 
  • Physical symptoms (headaches, stomachaches)
  • Withdrawal from peers, loss of interest 
  • Competition for parents’ attention 
  • Forgetfulness about chores and new information learned at school

How to Help

  • Patience, tolerance, and reassurance
  • Play sessions and staying in touch with friends through telephone and Internet
  • Regular exercise and stretching
  • Engage in educational activities (workbooks, educational games)
  • Participate in structured household chores
  • Set gentle but firm limits
  • Discuss the current outbreak and encourage questions. Include what is being done in the family and community
  • Encourage expression through play and conversation
  • Help family create ideas for enhancing health promotion behaviors and maintaining family routines
  • Limit media exposure, talking about what they have seen/heard including at school
  • Address any stigma or discrimination occurring and clarify misinformation

Source: National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Adolescent (13-18 years)

Common Reactions

  • Physical symptoms (headaches, rashes, etc.)
  • Sleep/appetite disturbance
  • Agitation or decrease in energy, apathy
  • Ignoring health promotion behaviors
  • Isolating from peers and loved ones
  • Concerns about stigma and injustices
  • Avoiding/cutting school

How to Help

  • Patience, tolerance, and reassurance
  • Encourage continuation of routines
  • Encourage discussion of outbreak experience with peers, family (but do not force)
  • Stay in touch with friends through telephone, Internet, video games
  • Participate in family routines, including chores, supporting younger siblings, and planning strategies to enhance health promotion behaviors
  • Limit media exposure, talking about what they have seen/heard including at school
  • Discuss and address stigma, prejudice and potential injustices occurring during outbreak

Source:  National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Have questions about coronavirus, how it spreads, and how to stay healthy? Read this Family Education Sheet or watch videos here from an infectious disease expert at Boston Children's Hospital. Read what to do if you are sick with coronavirus here: English |Español | 简体中文.

Click here for resources to support at-home activities and learning!