CALGARY -- The start of the school year is typically met with excited jitters but, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, excitement has been replaced this summer with higher levels of anxiety.

Alberta Blue Cross (ABC) wants to ensure that parents are conscious of their children's mental health and of their own.

"These are definitely not normal circumstances," explained Brian Geislinger, vice-president of corporate relations with ABC. "What should be an exciting time for many of us and our kids has turned into a time of worry and fear."

Parents are advised to regularly talk with their children about stress they may have, and reassure them that their feelings are valid. Children should be taught healthy coping skills to ensure they can properly process what they are feeling.

  • Try to discuss 'adult issues' (e.g. work trouble, financial issues, etc.) out of earshot of children as they may start to worry about these concerns as well.
  • Setting aside time together for family activities, such as playing a board game or a movie night, can also help children feel better.
  • Parents should discuss risks associated with going back to school in an honest and accurate way, so that fear and anxiety can be minimized.
  • For children who will learn remotely, establishing routines and having a set 'learning area' can greatly affect how much they will learn. If parents are working from home as well, finding a balance between work and supporting your child is also important.
  • Alongside managing stress, ABC recommends taking time to be present through breathing, meditation, and visualization exercises.
  • Organizing schedules in advance, and having back-up plans can also reduce stress levels.  

"Particularly through this challenging time, we encourage our plan members to take advantage of the mental health supports available through their benefit plans," said Geislinger. A wide range of resources are available through ABC, as well as counselling services.

Alberta Health Services also provides mental health resources online, aimed at supporting Albertans through COVID-19.