COVID-19: Caring for Children and Teens at Home

Situational Update

  • On March 31, 2020, the Ontario Ministry of Education extended the closure of all publicly-funded schools in Ontario until May 4, 2020. The closure may be extended if necessary to protect the health and safety of students, families and staff.
  • Private schools, licensed child care centres and EarlyON programs will also remain closed until April 13, according to the Declaration of Emergency, which only allows closures to be extended for one 14-day period at a time. Select centres designated to support frontline health care workers and first responders will remain open.
  • As of March 30, 2020, the Province of Ontario closed all outdoor recreational amenities. City trails remain open; residents are encouraged to comply with physical distancing recommendations while using the city’s trail network.
  • As of March 28, 2020, the City of Thunder Bay, Lakehead Public Schools, and Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board have temporarily closed public and school playground structures.


Infection Prevention and Control Measures for Children at Home

Parents and caregivers who are home with children as a result of school and daycare closures should follow simple infection prevention and control measures to help ensure a safe environment for the children in their care.

In addition to general infection prevention and control measures that should be followed, below are additional ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19.


Learning at Home

With school closures extended until at least May 4, 2020, local and district school boards will be implementing online learning for students (and offering hard copy versions).  More information can be found on the Schools and Daycares webpage.


Mental Health and Children

With COVID-19 now considered a pandemic, it is common for children and youth to be feeling increasingly anxious. News streams and mainstream media can be panic-inducing and make children and youth fearful for their health. Here are some recommendations for talking to your children about COVID-19 and ways to support their mental health.

To learn more about supporting children at this time there are 3 free webinars for caregivers hosted by Dr. David Tranter on March 25, April 1, and April 8. 

Additionally, the School Mental Health Ontario has updated their website and now includes information and resources for students, school staff and families on managing mental health needs during the current pandemic.


Healthy Eating During COVID-19

  • Preparing meals and eating meals together is a great way to stay connected and has nutritional, health and social benefits.  This extra time together is a great chance to involve kids in the planning and preparation of meals – not to mention you may actually have time to sit down for a meal together (remember to put devices in a basket or away from the table).
  • Meal planning and cooking is an important life skill that you have the opportunity to foster during this unplanned break from school.  And, if you’re at work, while your tweens/teens are at home – put them on dinner duty, you might all be surprised what they’re capable of. If it doesn’t work-out, you can always rely on breakfast for dinner: scrambled eggs and toast with cut-up veggies on the side!
  • You can find more information about cooking with kids and meal ideas at


Healthy Activities to do with Children

It is important for both physical health and mental health to remain active in the face of many closures of public spaces. See below for some suggestions.

Home with kids? Here are some activities to keep them active and healthy!


Parenting Tips During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • When possible, parents and caregivers should try to spend time with children in their care individually.
  • Let children help decide what they would like to do. If they suggest something that doesn’t follow current public health recommendations (i.e., having a bunch of friends over to play) caregivers can use this as an opportunity to discuss the importance of keeping physical distance from others.
  • Find creative ways to have children socialize with friends using Skype or Facetime without being physically close.
  • Actively listen to children when they share how they are feeling, acknowledge their feelings, and give them comfort. Reassure children by talking about what is being done to keep everyone safe and healthy.
  • If everyone is starting to feel cooped up, redirect children into a new fun activity before behaviour turns from good to bad.
  • Limit the use of technology (phones, tvs, tablets) and be active every day.
  • Check out the WHO Healthy Parenting During COVID-19 Pandemic resource for more parenting tips and ideas.


Tips to Maintain Teen’s Mental and Physical Health

With COVID-19 now considered a pandemic, it is common for teens and young adults to be feeling increasingly anxious about the state of the world and the impact of school closures on their social life, academics and potentially graduation.  Physical distancing can be more difficult for teens because relationships with peers are so important, and they push-back more than younger children because of their need for independence. Teens may not view COVID-19 as a serious health threat and might challenge the need for physical distancing because they’re more prone to impulsive behaviour and unlikely to consider consequences as an adult would.  In addition, they are trying to form their own identities by separating from their families and testing rules and boundaries.

This combination of factors can make it challenging for parents and caregivers to rationalize the necessity of physical distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak and maintain household harmony.  Hopefully the tips below will help teens and their caregivers to maintain positive mental and physical health during this challenging time.

Local school boards and School Mental Health Ontario all have excellent tips to support teen’s mental health while we engage in physical distancing. Visit the Board specific resources listed below:


Activities to Keep Teen’s Minds and Bodies Healthy

It is important for both mental and physical health to keep minds and bodies active and connected in the face of cancellation of activities and the closures of schools and many community spaces.

Here are some activities to keep teens engaged, active and healthy!


Additional Resources

For more information on COVID-19 visit the COVID-19 topics of interest webpage.

Last Updated: 01/04/2020