The Government of Alberta has put in place mental health supports in recognition of the unprecedented efforts already in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. There is an extensive list of supports on pages 18-20 of the 2020-21 School Re-Entry Guide. Alberta Education has also incorporated wellness outcomes for Kindergarten to Grade 9 curriculum with a focus on physical and mental health. High school students continue to be required to take physical education and CALM (which includes information about mental health) as part of their graduation requirements.
Talking to Children About COVID-19
The following information has been provided by Alberta Health Services and the U.S. Centre for Disease Control.
Remain calm and reassuring.
- Remember that children will react to both what you say and how you say it. They will pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others.
Make yourself available to listen and to talk.
- Make time to talk. Be sure children know they can come to you when they have questions.
Avoid language that might blame others and lead to
- Remember that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity. Avoid making assumptions about who might have COVID-19.
Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online.
- Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety.
Provide information that is honest and accurate.
- Give children information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child.
- Talk to children about how some stories on COVID-19 on the Internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccurate information.
Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs.
- Remind children to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing or sick.
- Remind them to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow, then throw the tissue into the trash.
- Discuss any new actions that may be taken to help protect children and school staff.
(e.g., increased handwashing, cancellation of events or activities)
Get children into a handwashing habit.
- Teach them to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
- If soap and water are not available, teach them to use hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol. Supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent swallowing alcohol.
Facts About COVID-19 For Discussions With Children
Try to keep information simple and remind them that health and school officials are working hard to keep everyone safe and healthy. The resources in the sidebar may be helpful.
What is COVID-19?
- COVID-19 is the short name for “coronavirus disease 2019.” It is a new virus. Doctors and scientists are still learning about it.
- Recently, this virus has made a lot of people sick. Scientists and doctors think that most people will be ok, especially kids, but some people might get pretty sick.
- Doctors and health experts are working hard to help people stay healthy.
What can I do so that I don’t get COVID-19?
You can practice healthy habits at home, school, and play to help protect against the spread of COVID-19:
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow. If you sneeze or cough into a tissue, throw it in the trash right away.
- Keep your hands out of your mouth, nose, and eyes. This will help keep germs out of your body.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Follow these five steps—wet, lather (make bubbles), scrub (rub together), rinse and dry. You can sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
- If you don’t have soap and water, have an adult help you use a special hand cleaner.
Keep things clean. Older children can help adults at home and school clean the things we touch the most, like desks, doorknobs, light switches, and remote controls.
- If you feel sick, stay home. Just like you don’t want to get other people’s germs in your body, other people don’t want to get your germs either.
What happens if you get sick with COVID-19?
COVID-19 can look different in different people. For many people, being sick with COVID-19 would be a little bit like having the flu. People can get a fever, cough, or have a hard time taking deep breaths. Most people who have gotten COVID-19 have not gotten very sick. Only a small group of people who get it have had more serious problems. From what doctors have seen so far, most children don’t seem to get very sick. While a lot of adults get sick, most adults get better.
If you do get sick, it doesn’t mean you have COVID-19. People can get sick from all kinds of germs. What’s important to remember is that if you do get sick, the adults at home and school will help get you any help that you need.
Supporting Positive Mental Health and Well-being
We want all students to be successful in their learning, and we recognize that positive mental health enables students to fully participate in their learning. When teachers identify students who appear to be struggling with mental health and well-being, we work with community partners to refer and suggest resources for students and their families. Supporting student mental health and well-being takes a village: students, families, Alberta Health Services, community supports and school staff all play a role -
Roles in Supporting Student Mental Health.
The work of the CBE is aligned with the work of Alberta Education. Alberta Education collaborated with school authorities, community partners and cross-ministry partners who shared their expertise in the development of a resource entitled
Working Together To Support Mental Health in Alberta Schools. This resource is an invitation for schools, their partners and families to reflect on current practices, leverage current initiatives and consider how the promotion of mental health and well-being can be more effectively embedded in school and system policies, practices and services. As understanding about mental health and well-being, brain development, learning environments and school communities evolve; best practices will also change and evolve.