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In-Person and Virtual Support to Help Children Manage Stress during COVID

Whether you are providing in-person care or opportunities for virtual learning, you have probably seen signs of children being confused, anxious, and processing a lot of big feelings. Whether or not they are able to fully understand all that is happening right now, children certainly feel the stress of the situation. Below are opportunities to support children and ease some of their worries whether you are with them in person or virtually.

Helping Children Return to Your Program

Transitioning back to in-person learning is a big shift after children have spent so much time at home. Some children might be happy to be back at school, while others might be frightened or overwhelmed by the transition. Regardless of children’s reactions, it is important to meet them where they are. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel about the changes.

Talk about Feelings & Emotions

Image from Grace Preschool, as shared by Baltimore Fishbowl.

Talking about feelings is especially important right now. This will help children to expand their emotional vocabulary and help them feel supported, as you acknowledge their feelings without judgment. At drop-off, we can say things like “I know it feels sad to say goodbye to dad after you guys spent so much time together at home. He’ll be back later today after we wake up from our naps.” It’s best to avoid comments like “you’re okay” or “don’t cry”. Even when coming from a good place, these types of statements can feel dismissive of children’s feelings and experiences. Rather than encouraging children to “be okay”, let them know that it’s natural to be angry, sad, or frustrated, and even to cry during times of stress.

Provide Comfort

Some children, when anxious or stressed, become more relaxed after they run around and get their energy out. Others might seek comfort in a cozy environment with soft lighting or a quiet activity, such as reading. Some children might also have a comfort item like a stuffed animal that helps them to cope. You might know each child well enough to know how to calm them when they are upset,  but if you’re not sure, try a few activities, since different approaches work for different children. Or, check-in with parents to see what they do at home when their child is struggling with a stressful situation.

Empower Children to Take Control

The guidelines related to COVID-19 have changed several times since March. A lot of the changes have felt out of our control, and that uncertainty can be particularly stressful for children. For this reason, helping children to feel a sense of control can create more security. We can empower children by listening to them, helping them to feel informed, letting them make decisions, allowing them to take the lead, and following their interests. Here are a few examples:

  • When possible, let children know about changes ahead of time. This knowledge allows them time to prepare themselves (as best as they can at a young age), rather than feeling surprised or caught off guard.

  • Allow children to make decisions throughout the day (“which mask would you like to wear?” “would you like to read this book or that book?” “would you like to put your shoes on by yourself, or would you like my help?”). These small decisions can help children to feel more in control.

  • If children are interested in a particular activity, allow them to take the lead! Follow along with their interests and empower them to choose what game they would like to play or what materials they would like to play with.

For more information about supporting the children attending your program, check out Good2Know’s previous article, Big Changes and Big Feelings: Supporting Children’s Emotions During the Transition Back to Child Care (in both English and Spanish).

Providing Emotional Support at a Distance

If you are only seeing children over video calls, it can be trickier to know how they are doing. However, you can still support their emotions, even from a distance. With books and visual aids, we can introduce conversations about emotions and help children to better understand their feelings. The following ideas can be helpful for connecting with children while doing virtual learning but are also great resources for in-person teaching and caregiving.

Books for Discussing Feelings & Emotions

Reading a book about emotions can be a great way for children to think about how they are feeling that day. They might relate to some of the emotions or experiences of the characters. Using some of these books, we help children to become better equipped to discuss their feelings.

Visual Aids for Distance Learning

Using cards, images, or dolls with different facial expressions can help children to learn about different emotions, and as they get older, learn to discuss some of their own. These faces can be shared over a video call for children, and maybe even sent via email to parents for them to print out and have at home.

A simple hand-drawn printable sheet with different faces and one word to describe the emotion.

Click here to download the free printable from Teachers Pay Teachers.


This simple printable could be laminated so that you can draw and erase facial expressions on the children. 

Click here to download the free printable from Teachers Pay Teachers.

These faces from Childcareland were printed on colored card stock and then placed on popsicle sticks, making them easy to hold up during virtual learning. 

Click here to download the printables, or click here to find more information about how the teacher who made these uses them in her program.

For a quick and easy virtual activity with these printables you can hold up different faces to the camera and ask children what they think that face is feeling —“Does this face look happy?” “How about this one? What do you think she is feeling?” Allow children to answer the questions and ask them if they’ve felt that way recently. “She does look like she’s feeling mad. Has anyone felt mad today? What kinds of things make us mad? What do you do when you feel mad?”

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