Family Resources During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Helping children cope during the COVID-19 outbreak

Age-appropriate recommendations to help your child cope during this time.

All of the news and information about the COVID-19 outbreak can be overwhelming – especially for a child. How do you know if your child needs some extra care and attention? What can you do to help?

Children may respond differently to an outbreak like coronavirus (COVID-19) depending on their age and developmental level.

Mary Bridge Children’s developed recommendations adapted from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network to help your child cope.


Signs to watch for: fear of being alone, nightmares, change in appetite and sleeping

Ways to help: be patient, providing both verbal and physical reassurance as well as planning calm and comforting activities before bedtime.

School-age (6-12)

Signs to watch for: a withdrawal from peers, loss of interest, irritability and forgetfulness.

Ways to help: virtually staying in touch with friends, incorporating daily exercise, limiting media exposure and rewarding positive behavior.

Adolescents (13-18)

Signs to watch for: a lack of energy, avoidance, isolation and physical symptoms such as headaches and rashes.

Ways to help: reacting with patience, tolerance and assurance is key. Make sure to have open and honest conversations often about their feelings and to clarify any misinformation they may have heard.

Children with special needs

Signs to watch for: Children with special needs will likely act based on their developmental age. Reactions may include a combination of those previously mentioned.

Ways to help: The best way you can help is by providing increased access to comfort measures and offering factual information with short, clear answers to questions within the scope of their understanding.

 Download the Helping Children Cope flyer 

Tips for helping kids navigate COVID-19

Our Child Life Specialists provide evidence-based practices to help your kids cope with this potentially stressful time.

News and information about novel coronavirus (COVID-19) can be stressful for everyone, including children. The Mary Bridge Children’s team of child life specialists has put together the following tips to help your kids navigate this extraordinary time. Child life specialists are trained professionals who use evidenced-based practices to help children cope with stressful experiences.

Ask children to tell you what they have heard or what they know about COVID-19

  • This will allow you to clarify any misconceptions and listen to any fears your child has.
  • Encourage your child to ask you any questions or share any worries they have.
  • Keep checking in with your child as questions and needs could change over time.
  • Acknowledge that it’s OK to feel scared or worried and remind them that this is temporary.

Share with children simple, concrete facts about the virus

  • “Covid-19 is an illness called a virus.”
  • “It is spread by germs that are shared between people.”
  • “Some people may get very sick and others may not feel sick at all.”
  • Remember it’s OK to say, “I don’t know” and explain that we are learning more about this virus every day.

Tell kids what you can do together to stay prepared and keep your family safe

  • Review your family’s plan for food and supplies.
  • Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, often.
  • Practice “social distancing” by staying home and avoiding large groups of people.

Talk about the helpers who are working to keep us all safe

  • The nurses, doctors, first responders and government officials.

Limit access to screen time and electronics

  • Encourage kids to be creative and active.
  • Decide how much time can be spent on a screen per day.
  • Set timers to alert kids when their screen time is up.

Get outside

  • Go for a walk around the neighborhood.
  • Take a hike or a scenic drive.

Stick to a routine as much as possible

  • Consistency is helpful, especially for children who are feeling stressed.
  • Make a schedule and empower kids by giving them simple choices regarding their schedule.

Share with kids that if they or someone they know were to get the virus, it’s not because they were bad or did anything wrong.

  • Just like when we get a cold of flu, it’s not because of something we did.

Kids are impacted by their parents’ anxieties. Find ways to relieve your own stress and worries. If you remain calm and positive, your children will feel better.

  • Take a break from the news and social media.
  • Go for a walk alone or take small breaks if you have young children.
  • Tell your kids one positive thing about the day.
  • CLearn more about Pandemic Parenting.

As parents or caregivers, please be kind to yourself and remember it’s OK if you don’t have all the answers. None of what is happening is normal and everyone is doing their best to adjust. Mary Bridge Children’s has also created a Helping Children Cope resource that provides additional information to help support your child. If you would like to access more resources regarding coping with the COVID-19 outbreak, visit the MultiCare COVID-19 Resource Center.

Video: Tips to help kids navigate Covid-19

Keeping kids safe during (unexpected) extra time at home

By Erin Summa, MPH – Mary Bridge Children’s, Center for Childhood Safety

At Mary Bridge's Center for Childhood Safety, our mission is to prevent unintentional childhood injury through health education, community partnerships and best practice prevention strategies.

While families around the world are staying home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many are keeping their minds and hands busy by taking on overdue home projects. Now is the perfect time to add child safety improvements to your stay home to-do list.

If you have kids in the house, consider the following:

  • Read or watch your car seat instruction manuals to make sure they are adjusted and installed right.
  • Check the fit of each child’s bike helmet, which need continuous adjusting as kids grow.
  • Look at the condition and weight limits of your life jacket. Kids should upgrade to the next size at 30, 50 and 90 pounds.
  • Store guns unloaded and in a gun safe or lock box.
  • Change the batteries in your smoke alarm.

For children under age 5, add these to the list:

Families are feeling particularly vulnerable right now, and we know that supervising and homeschooling your kids while simultaneously trying to work remotely feels overwhelming. But it is more important than ever to give hospitals and clinics the time and space to focus on COVID-19, rather than a preventable injury.

Keep washing your hands and observing social distance guidelines, and let's channel our protective urges into steps we can take to stay safe while we have this extra time at home. To learn more about ways to keep your family safe, visit MultiCare’s COVID-19 Resource Center

Download our How to wash your hands poster

How to create a behavioral health wellness plan

While this can be a stressful time, we offer some tips for those living with behavioral health issues or caring for someone who is.

Behavioral health wellness plan - COVID-19

News and information about COVID-19 can be stressful and overwhelming, and the effects can be amplified for people living with behavioral health illness. Mental Health America offers some tips to help anyone who may currently be living with behavioral health illness or caring for someone who is.

For individuals:

It’s understandable to feel worried during an infectious disease outbreak. For people living with mental health conditions, it’s important to know when these natural emotions are becoming anxiety.

Creating a wellness plan can help you manage and prepare for increased anxiety before it hits. Your plan could include information like:

  • How much medication you normally need, so that you can request enough refills to have on hand while practicing social distancing.
  • Ways to stay in contact with friends and family, such as texting, video chat and social media. Read our tips for staying connected while social distancing.
  • A list of activities you typically enjoy that can be incorporated into your day-to-day routine, to help maintain a sense of normalcy. For example, if you go to the gym or attend fitness classes regularly, don’t break the habit — just try exercising at home instead.
  • Other contacts outside of friends and family who can be easily reached if you need help. Resources like the Crisis Text Line are free and available 24/7. Learn more about how to prepare for your mental health wellness during the COVID-19 outbreak.

For caregivers:

If you provide care for someone with behavioral health illness, you should continue to be educated not only on how to help the person you care for, but yourself too.

Do this by:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Creating healthy eating habits
  • Exercising
  • Taking time for yourself

Also remember that it’s okay to seek professional help for yourself, if needed. A mental health screening from Mental Health America is available online, to help determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.

Learn more about what you can do to stay well while caring for a person with behavioral health illness.

If you’d like to support the greatest needs of Navos, Greater Lakes Mental Healthcare or MultiCare Behavioral Health programs during this time, please make a donation.

If you are experiencing a behavioral health crisis, please look to these local and national resources for help.

Washington State Health Care Authority offers crisis lines that are specific to the county in which you live.

SAMHSA National Helpline

Toll-Free: 1-800-662-HELP (24/7/365 Treatment Referral Information Service in English and español)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Toll-Free: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
Toll-Free (español): 1-888-628-9454 TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889)

Ayuda En Español

Crisis Text Line

Text CONNECT to 741741 from anywhere in the USA, anytime, about any type of crisis