Youth and Families

Urban Youth Trauma Center | COVID-19 Best Practices

Learn More

Youth and Families

UYTC COVID Best Practices 01COVID-19 Best Practices for Trauma Intervention
Youth and Families
Know the signs… be supportive
Living through a global pandemic such a COVID-19 can lead to a range of social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive problems. It is important that individuals are able to identify the signs that children and youth may be struggling and know the best ways that they can provide support.
  • Signs that your child may be experiencing difficulty include reluctance to separate, constant reassurance seeking behavior, physical symptoms (headaches, stomach pains, etc.), tantrums or meltdowns, trouble sleeping, moodiness, or irritability.
  • This can be a very stressful time for families. Check with your school or community centers for information regarding services available to help with financial hardship as a result of job loss, food insecurity, internet services, inability to access services due to no transportation, etc.
  • Your child may be experiencing a range of feelings due to shelter in place restrictions, inability to attend school, missing friends, etc. It is important to validate those feelings and help them identify positive ways to express those feelings such as using play, journal writing, drawing, talking with friends on phone, etc.
  • While families are sheltering in place, you or your child may need a space to go calm down, have quiet, or process emotions related to COVID-19. If possible, try to identify a quiet room or space in the home that can be used when someone needs to take a break.
  • Establishing a routine or daily schedule will help to create a sense of normalcy. Create a schedule that includes wake-up/bedtime, meals, schoolwork, family time, screen time, etc.
  • One of the best ways to support your child during this time is by modeling healthy behaviors and positive coping strategies.  This will help your child see that you are caring for yourself and them.
  • If you are concerned about your mental health or your child’s, there are many agencies that are providing phone or video counseling services during this time.
A sense of Trust
The circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic may cause children and youth to feel that they cannot rely on anyone for safety or support. The presence of positive and stable relationships is extremely important. The care and support provided by caregivers and other adults can help with positive development and resiliency.
UYTC bp01
  • Identify activities that you and your child can do together while at home to foster strong relationships such as reading a book, cooking together, watching a movie, playing a game, etc.
  • If you are an essential worker or working in healthcare, you may be choosing to stay separated from your family during this time for safety reasons. Try to find ways to maintain contact with your child such as talking on the phone, using video calling, playing a virtual game (drawful,, etc.
  • Your child is counting on you to be honest about what is going on. Even though you may fear that talking to your child about COVID-19 will increase their worries, bringing difficult topics into conversation can actually help to quiet stressors, as children can imagine scenarios far worse than reality. Sharing factual and age-appropriate information will help them put the situation into perspective.
A sense of Mastery
Changes in normal routines and the transition to at-home learning during the COVID-19 pandemic may cause children and adolescents to develop low self-esteem, poor self-mastery, and the belief that they are unable to accomplish tasks or develop new skills. It is important to support children and youth who may be struggling during this time and work with them on building new skills and developing a sense of mastery.
  • Continue to promote imaginative thinking by letting children create projects using objects or materials in the home.
  • To help with self-mastery and to also eliminate some parent responsibilities, assign household chores or tasks that are appropriate for your child to help with.
  • If your child likes art or drawing, encourage them to make cards or signs for healthcare workers or essential employees.
  • You and your child may have a list of tasks that you want to accomplish each day. Remember that it’s ok if you don’t finish everything you had wanted to accomplish during the day. In these uncertain times, it is perfectly acceptable to not be as productive as you were before.
  • Although you may sometimes assist with homework, most parents have not previously had to take on the role of “teacher” in this capacity. If you are feeling overwhelmed with at-home learning, reach out to school staff for advice on how to best support your child with at-home learning.
Feeling Safe
The uncertainty surrounding this virus, daily media reports, shelter in place policies, and constantly changing information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic may cause children and youth to feel unsafe or concerned about their family’s wellbeing. It is important to work towards creating an environment where individuals can feel safe by helping to identify safe spaces, building supportive relationships, and discussing ways to stay safe and healthy.
  • Create a safe physical and emotional environment. Help children develop a sense of safety about themselves and their loved ones, as well as their stability regarding access to basic needs. As much as possible, provide some predictability and routine (e.g., regular bedtimes and meals, daily schedules for learning and play). Provide support as they show signs of stress by validating their feelings and encouraging them to cope with their emotions. 
  • During this time of uncertainty your child may look to you for reassurance that are safe and that everything will be ok. It is important that you model positive coping strategies, give them extra attention and address any concerns, fears, or questions that they may have. However, it is also important that you avoid giving too much reassurance because due to the newness of this virus we are not sure how things may turn out or change.
  • Constantly watching the news or reading about COVID-19 can cause children and adults to feel anxious, distressed, or unsafe. Be mindful of how much information your family is exposed to and what children may overhear while at home.
  • For many individuals, their sense of safety and stability may be connected with religion or spirituality. Although your family may not be able to visit a religious building during this time, try to stay connected by watching religious services online or connecting with religious leaders by phone.
Changing the Message
The information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic changes daily and children and youth are getting information from multiple sources. It is important to identify their current beliefs regarding COVID-19, promote positive thinking regarding recovery, continue reviewing ways to stay safe, and avoid spreading false information.
  • Parents and children are understandably ready for shelter in place policies to end and are concerned that things will never “go back to normal”. Instead of focusing on what you miss, you and your child can make a list of things that you are looking forward to doing in the future.
  • One of the ways to ease some of the worries about COVID-19 is to speak with someone that has first-hand knowledge about the virus. It may be helpful to speak with your child’s pediatrician, individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, or people what have relatives who have recovered if they are interested in sharing their experiences.

Share Your Story! Using the hash tags #PromotingPandemicPeace and #UYTC, share examples of how you are using the best practice strategies to help yourself, your family, or others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click UYTC Coping with COVID-19 Best Practices Fact Sheet to download a printable copy for all youth providers and audiences.


Share Your Story! Take the Pledge!

We would like you to join our campaign by writing down your pledge for how you plan to use the best practice strategies to help yourself, your family, or others during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can share your pledge on social media using the hashtags #PromotingPandemicPeace, #UYTC, and #COVID19

Click COVID-19 Campaign Instructions and Pledge Sheet to download a printable copy.