Supporting and Protecting Your Children’s Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19 means that we all face new and unique challenges. Schools are cancelled, and social distancing measures mean that face to face contact with friends is a no go. Parents and guardians seek ways to explain this unprecedented situation to their children and support them through the uncertain times ahead.
With so many changes occurring seemingly all at once, it can be challenging to know which steps to take next. In today’s post, we share some tips to help parents and guardians in the Georgetown Texas community support and protect their children’s mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Give Kids a Sense of Control
Kids thrive with structure and routine. Even though school may be cancelled and the usual routine is disrupted, you can create your own routine with them. For instance, setting up a rough schedule of reading, playing outside, chores, online learning and family time can help kids feel less anxious during this unique time in our lives. Enlist your kids to help create part of the daily schedule too – giving them some control over what time they eat lunch or what subjects they focus on helps them have some investment in it.
Kids can gain a sense of control regarding information about the pandemic with facts. Letting them know that children have particularly mild cases of COVID-19 is reassuring. Teach them the hygiene skills they need during this time, including proper hand-washing and using hand sanitizers, gives them a sense of control over getting sick or not.
Monitor/Filter News and Internet Browsing
Be prepared to monitor your child’s internet browsing and help them process the information that’s out there about the pandemic. For as much realistic news online, there is just as much incorrect news that is focused on driving site traffic, not facts. Many of the news headlines incite fear and panic, and have amplified or distorted information in their statements.
You are your child’s best connection to the outside world, and giving them age-appropriate information while monitoring their exposure to online information, helps protect their mental health and well-being.
Model Compassion and Community Support
We’ve all seen the news reports of people stocking up on N95 masks and toilet paper, among many other items. There is a sense of panic, urgency, and “taking care of one’s own.” However, part of this pandemic could be showing kids how to come together as a community and show compassion for others who are isolated and shut indoors.
For example, putting a notice out on social media (Next Door is an ideal forum) asking if anyone in the neighborhood needs something from the grocery store is a great way to show care and concern for others in your community. Kids can draw pictures or learn how to write letters to elderly neighbors and family members who may not be able to get outside at all.
Manage Your Own Feelings About COVID-19
Children look to their parents as a barometer of how dire or calm a situation is. Even without words, children read and interpret their parents’ facial expressions and body language. The more you’re able to practice self-care, the more your children will benefit too, since it will spread to them as well! Taking time to meditate, exercise, get extra rest and connect with loved ones virtually are all ways to practice self-care. If you need more inspiration check out our previous self- care blog post.
Look for Silver Linings….With Them
With school cancelled and everyone staying at home more, it is a huge change of pace for most families. Along with the reality of the pandemic, there are naturally going to be some feelings of shock, fear, denial, and frustration. However, neuroscience research shows that when we focus on what we do have, as well as the upsides of any given situation, we start to become happier.
Work with your child to see how many “silver linings” you can come up with together. For instance, learning a new skill like cooking or gardening, spending more family time together, sleeping in, having movie days, etc. Practicing gratitude for what we do have, even simple things like safe housing, food to eat and books to read, trains the brain to look at what’s going well, which can lead to increased feelings of well-being and calm.
At Georgetown Counseling and Wellness we provide a compassionate space for you to tell your story and fully acknowledge your reality, utilizing proven treatment techniques. In light of COVID-19, we are now offering telehealth sessions over HIPAA-compliant video chat platforms. If you would like to know more about our services, please don’t hesitate to reach out. (512) 400-4247.