It’s been more than a full year since we first learned of COVID-19. Over the past 12 months, the effects of the global pandemic have been devastating to our economy, to our health system, and to our general way of life.
With more than 500,000 deaths in the United States alone, the virus has certainly taken its toll.
For our children and adolescents, mortality rates have been among the lowest of our population groups. But, that doesn’t mean they’re not feeling the pain. The impact on their mental health has been undeniable. Students have been forced to deal with sudden changes to their social lives and daily routines. Remote learning has replaced in-person classes. Sports, recitals, proms, homecomings and graduations have all been postponed or dramatically altered.
The immediate need for virtual learning has brought to light inequities in resources, access and connectivity for many children. And a large percentage are starting to experience “zoom fatigue,” a “burn out” phenomenon from constantly engaging on video platforms.
Add to all of this, the pressures put on the parents – including job loss, income insecurity, and the new challenges of “homeschooling” their children – have created stresses in the household that were not there before.
“Normal” is a distant memory.
Not surprisingly, in the era of COVID-19, many children are experiencing feelings of grief, despair, stress and anxiety. Research suggests that crises like the one we are engulfed in now can have long term effects on our children’s mental and emotional well-being. Which is why it is important for us to help them find alternate, creative and safe ways to cope.
Here are some strategies to consider:
Practice parent self-care. It’s important for your own wellbeing. But it’s also important to your kids that you are rested and in good spirits, so that you have the energy – and the patience – to be there for them throughout the day. This is especially good advice if you have small children.
Have regular family meals. It’s a great, simple way to bond as a family. It’s also the perfect opportunity for parents and children to openly discuss feelings, emotions and ways to make family life feel a little more normal.
Pick your battles. Now more than ever, maintaining the quality of the parent-child relationship is more important that putting the dishes away. In a time when everyone is on top of each other, remember that the little things are, in fact, little.
Connect with your teens. If you’ve got teenagers in the house who are missing their friends, their activities, and their freedom, use this opportunity to connect with them more. Watch movies and listen to music together. Learn their world, but also respect their need for privacy, as they are used to spending more time with their friends
Help your teens stay socially connected. Encourage them to reach out to friends and family by phone, FaceTime, text, social media or even video games.
Encourage physical fitness. A healthy body can promote emotional health. In a time when it’s easy to sit around and eat junk food, it’s important that we as parents and guardians encourage our children to eat healthy, drink water instead of sugar-loaded beverages, and get outside every once in a while.
Consider telehealth. The medical community has done heroic work in keeping us connected to our care providers. Telehealth – where you engage with your therapist via video conferencing or phone call – is one of the more noteworthy innovations. It is important for your children to receive continuity of health care, including continuing mental health, occupational and speech therapies. Telehealth may be the answer for you.
Consult the CDC. The Center for Disease Control offers valuable advice to help you and your children copy with daily life during the pandemic. Read more at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/children.html