Resources for Those Pregnant and Parenting During COVID-19

Last revised on May 20, 2020.


Helping Children Cope During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Being apart from friends and family can be challenging for everyone. For children and teens, it can be even more difficult. It is important that everyone practice physical distancing, but this idea can be hard for children to understand. Here are some things parents can do to help their children cope with this situation.

  • Reassure them that they are safe
  • Encourage them to ask questions, and to talk about how they feel
  • Be understanding – they may have problems sleeping, be upset, and need extra care and attention
  • Remember that kids look to their parents to feel safe and to know how to respond – reassure them and let them know you’ll tackle this together
  • Try to keep to normal routines and schedules – allow them to get outside and have supervised play. This is not a play date, so while out, remind them to keep 2 metres or 6 feet from others
  • Encourage them to keep in touch with their friends or other kids their age through supervised video chats or phone calls

Physical Distancing for Parents, Teens and Children

Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people with whom you and your family come into close contact. This is critical to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community. Though being apart from friends and family can be challenging even for adults, it can feel more like the end of the world for children and teens. Children can be more easily physically distanced than teens, who – quite frankly – push back more out of a need for greater independence.

The concept of physical distancing applies outside your home. Household contacts (people you live with) do not need to distance from each other unless they are sick or have travelled within the past 14 days. Physical distance and emotional distance are not the same. Social distancing is referring to PHYSICAL space. These recommendations are meant to keep physical space from other households, while staying emotionally connected! 

So, what does physical distancing look like or not look like in these age groups? 

What does physical distancing look like for children?

Finding ways to keep children connected with family, learning new skills, and staying active is important. We also want to help kids stay connected with grandparents and other family members who may not live in the household.

Physical distancing for children
Physical distancing means:Physical distancing does NOT include:
  • staying connected with family or friends through technology like SkypeWhatsapp, or Facetime
  • spending time with household members (as long as they are not ill or have not travelled in the last 14 days)
  • trying out new hobbies 
  • playing a new/old board game at home 
  • learning new skills (cooking, carpentry, baking, sewing, computer programming, etc.)
  • going outside for a walk or for a bike ride (learn more on the new guidelines for the use of City parks)
  • visiting with grandparents and extended family through pictures, the telephone, and social media  
  • having play dates 
  • going to or hosting parties (birthday, religious, special occasions) 
  • taking unnecessary trips in the community (visiting the corner store, the rock-climbing place or any other place where children gather).   
  • participating in community activities like sport teams or dance classes 
  • going to an outdoor playground

This may not be the worst time to let your children have some video chat time with friends, to play an extra video game, or to watch an extra movie. Perhaps even mix it up with online yoga or a bit of e-learning.  

Each interaction outside your home is a potential time when your family may be put at risk for the virus, so the less interaction your children have with other children the better. If you need help with childcare support, try to limit your contact with a single other family or single childcare provider

What does physical distancing look like for teens?  

Being a teenager often includes a drive for social time and acceptance. It can also include them wanting to assert their independence, which can turn physical distancing into a daunting task for parents to enforce. Teenagers can, however, still assert their independence while practicing physical distancing.

Physical distancing for teens
Physical distancing means:Physical distancing does NOT include:
  • video chatting with friends
  • spending time with household members (as long as they are not ill or have not travelled in the last 14 days) 
  • going outside for a jog, a bike ride, or rollerblading, provided you maintain a social distance of 2 metres with others (learn more on the new guidelines for the use of City parks) 
  • watching movies or playing video games 
  • being given some liberties to binge watch a show on television

  • helping in the kitchen or with other household chores 

  • reorganizing or redecorating their room like they always wanted to 

  • read a book or magazine 

  • trying out a new activity like painting or programming on their computer 

  • hanging out at their friend’s house in a group 
  • sleepovers 
  • going to the mall  
  • congregating at a coffee shop  
  • driving with friends in the car 

  • sharing food, drinks, make-up, cigarettes, and vape devices  

Let’s all teach our children about social responsibility, caring for others, and being a healthy member of the community. If we all reinforce these messages, teaching our teens about physical distancing may seem like less of a daunting task! Family time is not out of the question with this age group either.  No one says you can’t play board games, watch a movie as a family, go on a hike, or learn to bake bread from scratch! 

What does physical distancing look like for parents? 

Parents are the role models. You also set boundaries, enforce household rules, and guide your children to make the right decisions.

Physical distancing can be an opportunity for your family. You can become closer, get to know each other again, create new memories and experiences, and learn new skills together! 

Granted, it could also be a time when you want to pull your hair out, find a closet and hide, or let them live on mac and cheese and fend for themselves.  If you need to take a breather, please know it is okay to not be okay. Help is available, and we encourage you to reach out to Distress Centre of Ottawa to connect with someone at 613-238-3311. For more information, please visit our Mental Health and COVID-19 webpage.

Either way – physical distancing will keep this virus from spreadingwhich is our end goal.    

We must not only think about how to avoid getting coronavirus, but also how to ensure we don’t spread it to those in our community.  Together, let’s teach our children about social responsibility!

Hand Hygiene for Children

Keeping children's hands clean is the best way to keep them from getting sick and spreading germs. Babies and young children often put their hands in their mouths, making it more likely to spread germs that cause illness.

Useful links:

Physical Activity 

Physical activity and fresh air support a healthy body. This is important to be able to fight a virus. Going for a walk, a bike ride, or a hike all while maintaining a physical distancing of 2 metres or 6 feet can help your family feel less isolated and more in control of a worrying situation (learn more on the new guidelines for the use of City parks). Why not go geocaching, feed the birds, or discover a new walking trail? It is important not to have play dates indoors and outdoors with other families, and that all play be supervised by an adult.  

Learning at Home 

The best place for kids to learn is in school. With schools closed for an indefinite period of time, parents have been exploring ways to help teach their children at home. Let’s be honest, parents aren’t expected to become teachers overnight. That’s a lot of pressure!  Especially if you are working from home, it may feel overwhelming to see an abundance of information on how to care for your children while schools are closed and feeling like you simply can’t make it happen. While it may not be delivering the curriculum or incorporating evaluations, there are things you can do to bring a sense of normalcy and stability for you and your children. A routine brings some comfort to children in these stressful times. Sit down with your children, and ask them what they think the new routine should be. Consider getting the older siblings involved as they act as mini teachers to help with the younger kids.

The Ministry of Education of Ontario - Learn at Home webpage provides students and their parents access to educational resources to help keep students learning and engaged during school closures. This webpage provides quick and easy access for kindergarten to grade 12 learning resources. 

Parents are also encouraged to access their school board’s website for additional resources and information.  

Educational Resources (PDF - 143 KB)

Help your Children to Continue Learning

  • Stay in touch with your child’s school.
    • Many schools are offering lessons online (virtual learning). Review assignments from the school, and help your child plan their week to complete the work. You may need to help your child with turning on devices, reading instructions, and typing answers.
    • Connect with your school about challenges. If you face technology or connectivity issues, or if your child is having a hard time finishing assignments, let the school know.
  • Create a schedule and routine for learning at home but stay flexible.
    • Have the same bedtimes and get up at the same time, Monday through Friday.
    • Structure the day for learning, free time, healthy meals and snacks, and physical activity.
    • Allow flexibility in the schedule — it’s okay to change the schedule based on your day.
  • Think about your child’s needs and the need to adapt the activities or lessons to their age group
    • The change to being at home will be different for preschoolers, K-5, middle school students, and high school students. Talk to your child about what you expect and how they are adjusting to being at home versus at school.
    • Think about ways your child can stay connected with their friends without socializing in person.
  • Look for ways to make learning fun.
    • Have hands-on activities, like puzzles, painting, drawing, and making things.
    • Free play can also be used in place of structured learning. Encourage children to build a fort from sheets or practice counting by stacking blocks.
    • Practice handwriting and grammar by writing letters to family members or the local retirement residence. This is a great way to connect and limit face-to-face contact.
    • Start a journal with your child to document this time and discuss the experience.
    • Use audiobooks or see if your local library is hosting virtual or live-streamed reading events.

Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, Babies (FAQs)

Pregnancy and COVID-19

1. Are pregnant people more likely to get COVID-19?

New information is being learned about COVID-19 all the time. Right now, pregnant people do not seem more likely to get COVID-19 then others. There is also no evidence that suggests pregnant women are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, nor that a developing child could be negatively affected by COVID-19.

2. Are pregnant people more at risk with COVID-19?

Right now, there are not a lot of studies on the effects of COVID-19 in pregnant women. However, it is known that high fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects. Because of this it is always important that pregnant people protect themselves from illness. Generally, based on knowledge of other respiratory illnesses in pregnancy, issues are usually because of changes to blood volume and breathing during pregnancy and any pre-existing respiratory issues.

3. How can you protect yourself from COVID-19 when pregnant? 

Throughout pregnancy, women experience changes in their bodies that may increase the risk of other illnesses, such as viral respiratory infections. This is why it is important for pregnant women, especially those at high risk of developing severe complications, to take the following precautions to protect against the possibility of becoming sick:

  • Stay home as much as possible, except for important medical appointments.
  • Talk to your doctor, obstetrician, or midwife about the possibility of telephone or videoconference appointments.
  • Avoid unnecessary visitors to your home.

Pregnant women must also do the same things as the general public to avoid infection and help stop the spread of COVID-19

4. Can a birthing person with COVID-19 pass the virus to the fetus?

A lot is still being learned about COVID-19 but right now there are no reports of transmission of COVID-19 from a birthing parent to baby before delivery nor has the virus been detected in samples of amniotic fluid. As more is learned, we will update this information.

5. For pregnant health care providers

Each person’s circumstance is different. Their pregnancy history, risk of exposure in their workplace, and health status will all influence their level of risk. If you are a health care professional who is pregnant, consult your health care provider and the occupational health and safety department in your workplace to determine how you can best protect yourself. Personal protective equipment and good overall hygiene practice remain the foundation for maintaining good health. Additional measures may be advisable on a case-by-case basis. 

6. Should I still go to my prenatal or post-partum appointments?

As the COVID19 situation continues to evolve, it is best to connect with your primary health care provider to discuss your appointments. Some health care providers are screening all clients prior to seeing them at the clinic, while many are having phone appointments. Each situation is unique, so it is best to call your health care professional for the most up-to date information.

For information about pregnancy and post-partum resources, see the link below.

*Note: due to COVID-19 many sites have changed their services. Please call or check online before heading out.

7. Childbirth 

If you plan to give birth in a hospital or a birthing centre, learn about the policies in place. Most hospitals and birthing centres have reduced visitors or a no-visitor policy. In most cases, only one support person may be permitted. Your support person is not considered a visitor, as they stay with you throughout your hospital stay.

If you plan to give birth at home, talk to your midwife about whether homebirths are still an option in your area during the pandemic, and what precautions to take to ensure your home environment is safe.

If you have COVID-19, talk to your health care provider about the plans for your birth. Birth plans will be based on your preferences, the safety of the care provider, as well as obstetric recommendations. Your health care provider may consult perinatal (around birth), neonatal (for the baby), infectious disease and intensive care specialists, as required.

For more information visit Pregnancy, childbirth and caring for newborns: Advice for mothers (COVID-19).
Breastfeeding and Chestfeeding

1. Can I breastfeed my baby if I have COVID-19?

Yes. Human milk contains antibodies and other immunological factors that can help protect the infant, even while the breastfeeding parent is ill. Plus, there is no evidence, right now, that the virus can be carried in breastmilk, meaning the benefits of human milk outweigh the risks of spreading COVID-19 through human milk. Parents with COVID-19 should wash their hands well with soap and water and dry them before touching the baby or any item that the baby will touch and anytime they sneeze or cough on their hands. They should also wear a face mask, if possible, when feeding or handling the baby.
2. Can I express (this includes pumping manually or with a pump) human milk if I have COVID-19?

Yes. Human milk contains antibodies and other immunological factors that can help protect the infant, even while the expressing parent is ill. Plus, there is no evidence, right now, that the virus can be spread through human milk. We recommend washing your hands before expressing human milk and/or before touching any pump or bottle parts as well as wearing a face mask and making sure to store expressed human milk safely. Also wash well all parts that come into contact with human milk.

3. Can COVID-19 pass through human milk?

A lot is unknown about how COVID-19 spreads. In limited studies on women with COVID-19 and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), the virus has not been detected in human milk; however, we still don’t know for sure if breast/chestfeeding parents with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via human milk. Parents can feed or continue to feed their babies human milk for the antibodies and other immunological factors that can help protect the baby, even while the breastfeeding parent is ill. 

4. What if I feel too sick to breastfeed my baby?

If a parent is too sick to feed their baby at the breast or chest and another healthy caregiver is caring for the baby, the breastfeeding parent can be encouraged and helped to express their milk to maintain their milk supply and so that the infant continues to receive it. Any sudden stop to breastfeeding can cause mastitis. Before expressing human milk, make sure to wash hands well with soap and water and, if using a pump, follow manufacturer’s instructions for proper cleaning. 

5. What can I do to protect my baby while bottle feeding?

Before feeding your baby make sure to wash hands well with soap and water and dry them before touching the baby or any item used for feeding. No matter how you feed your baby it is a special time and an opportunity to cuddle close. Consider limiting the number of people who bottle feed baby and wear a mask if you are coughing or feeling ill, to help to protect your baby.

For more information visit the World Health Organization's Q&A on COVID-19, pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.

 1. How can I protect my baby if I have COVID-19?
Parents with COVID-19 should be careful to avoid spreading it to their baby because babies are at higher risk when sick. Parents with COVID-19 should wash their hands well with soap and water and dry them before touching the baby or any item that the baby will touch (including during feeding) and anytime they sneeze or cough on their hands. They should also wear a face mask, if possible, when feeding or handling the baby.
2. What can I do to protect my baby while bottle feeding?
Before feeding your baby make sure to wash hands well with soap and water and dry them before touching the baby or any item used for feeding. No matter how you feed your baby it is a special time and an opportunity to cuddle close. Consider limiting the number of people who bottle feed baby and wear a mask if you are coughing or feeling ill, to help to protect your baby.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can children get COVID-19?
Yes, children can get COVID-19. Generally, their symptoms will be mild. If you think  your child has COVID-19 or has been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, use the Ontario Government self-assessment tool to help determine how to seek further care. 
2. Can my child be tested for COVID-19?
If they meet the testing criteria, children over 6 months can be tested at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre and children under 6 months at CHEO. See Ottawa Public Health’s website for details on testing.
3. How can I talk to my kids about COVID-19? 
Start by informing yourself. You can find up-to-date information on our novel coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage. Reassure them that they are safe and encourage them to talk about how they feel and to ask questions. From the information you read, you may need to explain or simplify the information depending on your child’s age. Remind them of all the things they have control over to stay healthy: hand washing, cough/sneeze etiquette, keeping their hands away from their faces, staying healthy.

Visit these useful links:

4. How can I help my children cope with the stress and worry about COVID-19?
Many children will look to their parents for information and reassurance. Being away from school, away from their friends and cancelling gatherings can be hard on kids. While some kids will adapt more easily, others may struggle.  As a parent, be calm, provide reliable information and answer their questions.  Reassure them that you are there to help them and that life will return to “normal”.

For children who may need additional support, please contact:

Useful links:

5. How can I help my youth tackle the blues during COVID-19 and physical distancing?

Social or physical distancing – a new term that has become a common household phrase– can make youth feel confused, scared, frustrated, worried, guilty, sad, and lonely. Youth are being asked to change their routines: They can’t go to school or work, see friends at parties or social events, or participate in extracurricular activities. For youth who were already feeling sad, depressed, or lonely, having to distance themselves from others (or for some, to self-isolate), can make the symptoms of depression—like feeling irritable or hopeless—even worse.

Visit this useful link for more information:

6. My child has an autism spectrum disorder and is struggling. What can I do?

Children and teenagers with an autism spectrum disorder often like routines and rituals and don’t like to change. Closed schools and cancelled activities can be very disruptive for them. This can be a challenge not only for the individuals, but also for their families.

Visit these useful links for more information:

7. How can I address increased substance use with my youth during COVID-19?

While COVID-19 is less likely to cause serious symptoms in younger people, it could be a more serious health threat if combined with vaping or smoking cigarettes or cannabis.

Useful link:

8. Can my children play outside during COVID-19?
Anyone who is not showing signs of illness and is not on self-isolation under the Quarantine Act should try to get outside for fresh air and exercise to maintain their health during these difficult times.  When you or your children are outside, remember to practice physical distancing. That means staying 2 meters or 6 feet away from anyone you see. Passing someone on a sidewalk is not considered a high-risk activity for infection with COVID-19.  

Useful link:

9. Can children use play structures in parks when playing outside?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all City park equipment is closed until further notice. Only walkthroughs are permitted – while respecting physical distancing.

The closures apply to all play and park equipment, this includes:

  • Play structures
  • Swings
  • Slides
  • Climbers
  • Adult fitness stations
  • Benches and picnic tables
  • Skateboard parks
  • Off-leash dog enclosures

Park and play equipment also encourage multiple users. More importantly, the surfaces are not being cleaned and could potentially spread the COVID-19 virus. 

Learn more on the new guidelines for the use of City parks.

10. How do I explain to my kids that they can’t play with other kids?
Being away from friends and family can be difficult for kids. When people who are infected with the virus stay home, they can’t pass it to anyone else. This way, we are protecting our friends, our family members and our community. If your child is healthy, then enforce how important it is for friends to stay home to protect them. Talk about your family as a circle: each person you come into contact with makes your circle bigger. The bigger the circle, the more the risk of getting sick. Your friend brings everyone they have come into contact with into your circle when you play together! Encourage your children to stay in contact with friends through supervised video or phone calls, supervised. You can organize for your child to go on a walk or bike ride with a friend so long as they maintain their physical distance of 2 metres. Do not play on play structures. Do not host or let your child have playdates.  
11. I need to work from home, but I also have kids in the house. What can I do?

Needing to work from home with kids around can be challenging and stressful. Kids may not be used to having their parent at home, but not able to spend much time with them. Talk to your kids about your responsibilities. Make a schedule for the day. Set some time where you will be able to do an activity with them. Talk to your employer about possible accommodations for work hours that work with your family. Be patient with yourself, and make sure to take time for yourself.

Useful links:

12. I’m feeling overwhelmed. What can I do?
It's normal for situations like COVID-19 to affect your mental health. Everyone will experience these events in their own way. It is completely natural to feel stress and concern. Practicing positive coping strategies will help you cope, and will show your children how they too, can cope. Visit our Mental Health and COVID_19 page for resources that are available to you.

Useful link:

13. What if I get sick or need to self-isolate? How can I take care of my children?
If you are self-isolating, experiencing symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, you should avoid contact with other people, including your children. Make alternate arrangements with family members, friends, or neighbours.

If this is unrealistic for you, here are a few tips to minimize the risk:

  • Minimize the amount of time your children are in shared spaces with you, such as the kitchen or the living room.
  • Keep the shared spaces well ventilated.
  • If possible, use a different bedroom and washroom from others.
  • Wash your hands often, cover your cough with a tissue or your elbow.
  • Wash touched surfaces frequently.
  • If you need to be in a room with other people, wear a mask. If you cannot wear one, have others wear one.
  • Keep a 2 metre (6 feet) distance from others.
  • Have your kids wash their hands often.

Current evidence suggests that children who contract the virus have a lower risk of having serious symptoms.

14. If my child is sick, what do I do?
Generally, children who have COVID-19 get mild symptoms. Follow the Guide for caregivers, household members, and close contacts if you are caring for someone who has the virus.
15. How can I talk to my child about having to work outside the home?   
Children may get anxious when one of their parents works outside the home, particularly in health care. Frontline Resilience has resources and info sheets for children of frontline workers.
16. What if my child needs medical attention unrelated to COVID-19?

Even during a pandemic, other health issues may arise. Many clinics are doing phone appointments. The best way to know what to do is to call your health care provider, and get information on how they are handling medical issues not related to COVID-19. 

Your child may need medical attention that is unrelated to COVID-19.  If that is the case, call your health care provider.  If they are unavailable, and you require urgent care, please visit the CHEO Emergency Department.

17. Can my toddler wear a mask?

Never place a non-medical mask or facial covering on young children under age two.  Small children may have difficulty breathing when their mouth or nose are covered.

COVID-19 and Immunizations (FAQs)

1. My pediatrician’s office is not currently seeing patients, and my child is behind on their primary vaccination(s), should I be worried?
No, your child is still protected.

The Canadian Immunization Guide states that delays between doses does not mean your child will have less protection when the vaccine series is finally completed. Re-starting a vaccine series is not recommended.

If your Pediatrician is seeing patient’s virtually, or can be contacted by phone, find out when they will begin to see patients in-person, and discuss a plan to catch up with your child’s vaccine(s).

Is your child under 2 and has not started/missed their primary vaccinations?

The Kids Come First Health Team is now seeing patients at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) under the age of 2 years who have missed their primary vaccination(s) due to COVID-19 closures.

Kids Come First Immunization Clinic

2. My child was due to have their second vaccine doses at the Grade 7 vaccination school-based clinic, will there be a make-up clinic? 
Yes, OPH will prioritize the immunization of 2019-2020 Grade 7 students as soon as the risk associated with COVID-19 is decreased. Ottawa Public Health cancelled the second cycle of the Ottawa Public Health School Immunization Clinics because of school closures due to COVID-19 pandemic response.

It is preferable that parents wait for Ottawa Public Health to share their plan before arranging individual immunization arrangements.

Thank you for your understanding and your patience during this time. 

3. My doctor’s office remains open for routine infant/childhood checkups and routine vaccination(s). Is it safe to take my child? 
Yes, your doctor will assess your situation and The Canadian Immunization Guide states that delays between doses do not result in a reduction in final antibody concentration. However, maximum protection won’t be reached until all doses in the vaccine series have been administered.

Priority for vaccination at this time would be for infants starting their primary series of vaccine and children new to Canada missing their primary series of vaccine.

  • If heading to a health care practitioner’s office, go alone (or only with your infant if they need their primary series).
  • Ensure that you let the office know if you have any COVID-19 symptoms in advance, wear a mask, practice physical distancing, and use good hand hygiene.
  • While waiting to be seen, sit at least 2 metres away from other patients and while waiting 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine. 
4. My child received a suspension notice at the start of the year because of an incomplete immunization record, will my child be suspended once schools re-open?
No. The date of suspension has now passed, so once school resumes your child WILL be able to return to school with or without the vaccine information.

If your child remains overdue when the next immunization record assessment process begins, your child will be at risk of being suspended in the upcoming school year. 

5. My vaccine appointment at the 100 Constellation Clinic was canceled, when will the clinic be re-opened? 

The clinic will re-open once Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches, determine that the risk of COVID-19 has been reduced sufficiently to resume providing vaccines in our clinic. All individuals who had an appointment cancelled at the 100 Constellation Immunization Clinic, will be contacted by phone to set up a new appointment.

At present, priority populations for vaccinations are the following: young children under the age of 2 who need to complete their first childhood vaccine series; newcomers who are in the middle of a catch-up series and have not completed their primary series; Pregnant women needing Tdap. 

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