How to help manage a child's anxiety during a COVID-19 test

Returning to school and daycare in the fall meant more children needed to get tested for COVID-19.

The thought of the swab can cause anxiety for kids. But, a child psychologist said there are ways to make the experience a little more comfortable.

Five-year-old Bennett Hansen had to get a COVID-19 test after he started to show some symptoms for the disease.

"He started experiencing symptoms -- sore throat, runny nose, maybe a little coughing," his father, Kyle, said.

Bennett said he was afraid to get the test.

"When I was about to do it, I was super scared," he said.

Meghan McMurtry, a child psychologist at the University of Guelph, said there are ways to make the test more comfortable for children.

"It's really important to be honest but use neutral language," McMurtry said.

She said parents should come up with a coping plan, talking to their children before the test to prepare them for what's to come.

"One of the things is the waiting period before you actually get the procedure," McMurtry said. "It's important to have some sort of distraction or fun activity to do so that kids aren't getting really bored while they wait or getting more worried as they wait."

During the test, McMurtry said children should be encouraged to take deep belly breaths and sit on their parents' lap.

"The parent can just wrap their hands or their arms around the child like in a big hug and this helps children feel safe and secure," she said.

Once it's over, McMurtry suggested parents should continue to talk to their child about the test.

"If we don't do these steps, for some children it can go on to become a bigger and bigger fear," McMurtry said.

Kyle said it was heartbreaking to see his son in temporary pain, but was proud of how Bennett handled the test.

"You basically just got to make the best of it and he did very well after that," Kyle said.

Bennett had some advice for any other kids who might need to be tested.

"You don't need to be scared," he said. "I got it too and it's just a little sting, like a bee."