Mental Health for Families

Last modified: 
Sat, 06/06/2020 - 20:39

Parents, guardians and caregivers have found themselves taking on many new roles in this time of change. Although you know your child best, it can be helpful to have some guidance about how to support your child and yourself through COVID-19. This page provides tips and resources for this difficult time. 

Help your child understand what is happening

Although there is a lot of information to be found out there, it is important to take time to discuss what is happening with children in ways that they can understand.

Be aware of how you talk about COVID-19 around your child, as they will look to you to know how worried they should be. When talking to children about COVID-19, provide factual information with a focus on the positive. Share information about what is being done in your community to keep people safe. Keep your explanations appropriate for their age and understanding. It is often best to give small amounts of information and then be ready to answer their questions. Older children are likely to want more detail. Stories with pictures can be helpful for younger children.

Below are some examples of child-friendly stories about COVID-19 and its impacts, such as school closure.

To help foster a sense of control and reduce anxiety, brainstorm with children and youth about ways that they can help, such as washing their hands, practicing physical distancing, thinking of safe activities to do as a family, calling a family member or friend to check in, or shovelling a driveway of an Elder. 

Prioritize mental well-being

Many children will show increased signs of stress in response to so many sudden changes and uncertainty - this is to be expected. Stress will look different for everyone. It may look like:

  • Talking more or less than usual
  • Asking lots of questions
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling tired
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Behaviour challenges

This stress can often be managed by connecting with a caregiver to:

  • Give them time to talk about their feelings
  • Engage in fun activities
  • Practice calming techniques such as deep breathing

However, if your child continues to struggle or you are concerned about their mental health, reach out for help from one of the support lines below or by contacting your local Community Counselling Program.

Adults’ mental well-being is just as important. Be kind to yourself. You have been asked to take on many new roles and the most important thing is to remain healthy, both physically and mentally. 

Supporting mental well-being can look different from person to person and you should find what is right for you and your family. However, here are some general tips. 

  • Find safe ways to stay connected to loved ones. For example, keep up with phone calls, face-time, video-chats, and  outdoor activities where you can keep space between people.
  • Establish a ‘new normal’ and a new routine. Routines can help us to feel in control and promote a sense of safety.
  • Practice calming activities such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, nature walks, yoga, or other mindfulness activities.
  • Know that the constant flow information from news and social media about COVID-19 will likely have an impact  on you and your family’s well-being. It is a good idea to take a regular break from the information.
  • As a family, set a time daily to share what you are thankful for and at least one positive from your day.
  • Reach out for support. Below are various phone and online helplines. There is support available to individuals of all ages 24 hours a day.  

Access mental health support

NWT Helpline

The NWT Helpline offers free support to residents of the Northwest Territories, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is 100% free and confidential. The NWT Helpline also has an option for follow-up calls.  

Residents can call the helpline at 1-800-661-0844.

Trained responders can help you with any number of concerns, including:

  • Stress management
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Depression and anxiety

Hope for Wellness Helpline

The Hope for Wellness Helpline offers immediate help to all Indigenous peoples across Canada.  It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to offer counselling and crisis intervention. Call the toll-free helpline at 1-855-242-3310 or connect to the online chat at  Services are available in Cree, Ojibway, Inuktitut, French and English.

Kids Help Phone

Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only national 24-hour, bilingual and anonymous phone counselling, online counselling and referral service for children and youth.

Their service is completely anonymous and confidential. You don’t even have to tell them your name. You can connect to them by phone, mobile app or by chat, whenever and however you want.

Call 1-800-688-6868 or Text “CONNECT” to 686868.

Other resources