How can we best support our children through COVID-19 is a big question right now.
The topic our children’s mental health during this global pandemic has come to my attention in my work with parents of toddlers to teens, in number of ways. From increasing anxiety with kids to disrupted sleep patterns.
FIRST, WHY IS SUPPORTING OUR CHILDREN THROUGH COVID-19 IMPORTANT?
It may be obvious why we need to support our children through COVID-19, but I think it’s worth saying.
Many of us adults are struggling to deal with the effects of this pandemic right now. So naturally this huge shift in lifestyle may be impacting our children too.
Worry and anxiety has also spread across the globe right behind the Coronavirus.
UNICEF, Kids Health and many other organizations dedicated to the wellbeing of children have discussed the importance of being proactive about talking to your children about COVID-19 and staying on top of managing anxiety and worry.
MISINFORMATION AND COVID-19
A huge reason for talking to your children, particularly older kids, is to manage the information they consume. There is a great deal of misinformation floating around. It is therefore important that you stay up to date with the latest on COVID-19 and inform yourself of the facts.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is a great source of factual and timely information. They are also supporting global efforts in finding a vaccination.
CHILDREN’S AGE AND COVID-19
It is also essential to manage information differently based on age, as well as manage what and how you say things to your children in an age sensitive way.
Here are some ways you can attend to your child’s mental health during this very sensitive time.
From toddlers to teens, the list is applicable.
10 WAYS TO DEAL WITH YOUR CHILD’S MENTAL HEALTH DURING THIS TIME
1.HAVE AN OPEN, PROACTIVE & AGE-APPROPRIATE DIALOGUE.
Depending on the age of your child and their maturity, it’s important to have an age-appropriate talk with your kids about what is happening, what they need to do to stay healthy and what they might be hearing.
Normalize worries and anxieties, as it’s a little worry/anxiety is adaptive. Let them know you’re there for them so not to let the worry take over.
Anxiety Canada (April 2020) says that some children might be worried about seeing their friends after the isolation period ends, however reassure them that things will return to normal and we are all there for them.
2. STICK TO A STRUCTURE.
YNICEF (April 2020) agrees with experts who advocate for structure during this time.
Early on we should create a new structure for our kids so they can feel safe, less anxious and their world returns to a new predictable state.
If your child is old enough they can help generate ideas for the structure of their day. If your children aren’t old enough, you can work toward a structure that functions well for your children.
3. PRACTICE MINDFULNESS WITH YOUR CHILDREN.
A practice that is increasing its evidence base is the practice of mindfulness in parenting.
In high stress situations like being at home with kids during a global epidemic, you may notice your anxiety levels have increased, but also your children. Mindfulness helps to keep you in the present instead of worrying about things you may have little control of.
4. TEACH YOUR CHILDREN HOW TO BREATHE.
Studies show folks who have high anxiety have different breathing patterns.
Breathing itself physiologically allows your body to relax and your mind to take a break.
Kids Health (April, 2020) say in particular ‘belly breathing’ is most helpful and to practice for 5 to 10 minutes daily.
5. LET YOUR CHILD FEEL THEIR EMOTIONS.
So many things have changed, from not being able to go out as frequently, less family around, to less friends, no school, activities with friends and family, trips cancelled, etc. It’s normal that even the youngest of children are going to feel a change.
Support your children in whatever they are feeling.
With toddlers or younger children you might see their feelings playing out differently like through sleep disruptions or more frequent emotional meltdowns.
6. STAY CONNECTED WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY.
Even though you may not bel able to see friends and family, it’s still important to stay in touch with them. Through the phone, video or social media, feeling connected is essential for our children at this time.
Studies show connectedness and social support reduces anxiety and boosts the immune system.
7. TEACH CHILDREN ABOUT PRACTICING GRATITUDE.
Part of Mindful Parenting is creating rituals of gratitude.
This is a practice that is often used as a method to address anxiety with children. It’s a great spirit lifter and provides you an opportunity to come up with a fun way to ritualize it.
You call someone and thank them, send a letter, write a list of things you’re grateful for, or play a game like Rose and Thorn to end the day (i.e., the best part of the day is the rose and the worst is the thorn).
8. SPEND TIME IN NATURE.
Many organizations that advocate for children’s health and mental health are encouraging us to go into our backyards, or places where there are no people to appreciate nature.
Time in nature helps to improve our mood and wellbeing.
9. STAY ACTIVE.
Being active is a huge part of being a child.
Activity helps with children’s mental health through endorphin production and physical health by boosting the immune system.
There are many ways to be active, yet still practice social distancing such as backyard play, inside fitness apps, forest walks, etc.
10. BE AWARE OF YOUR OWN BEHAVIOR.
Being aware of what we’re saying and doing during this time is essential for our children. Monitor your own behaviors during this high stress time, as anxiety and worry has a way of being transferred to children. Anxiety transference can be mitigated through keeping a proactive and open dialogue between you and your children.
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The best way to stay COVID-19 free is to stay at home. When you do have to go out for groceries or if you’re an essential worker, please practice proper hand hygiene.
What’s helped you and your children cope during this time? Drop me a line below.
Be good to yourself,