Supporting Kids Mentally During the Pandemic
As quarantine, social distancing, and remote learning continue on into the winter months, it can be difficult to know how to continue to support children through the change and unstable times. Maryland schools are seeing a shift back to remote learning, which may reignite negative emotions, depression stints, and anxiety in kids and teens.
As a parent, teacher, or caregiver, you may be wondering how you can best support the children in your care during this difficult time. While child counselors are always available for child therapy in Ellicott City at The Family Center, offering both in-person and telehealth therapy, there are things you can do at home to help support your kids or students and help them maintain their mental health.
1) Child Counselors Recommend Open Conversations About Fears, Worries, and Anxieties
One of the first ways to help children through the pandemic, remote learning, and social distancing is to have open and honest conversations with them about their feelings. Whether you want your children to talk to a child counselor or you are prepared to have the conversation yourself, it is important to be patient, encouraging, and let them be honest with you about their concerns.
Young kids to older teens may feel uncertain about returning to school or having to stay homeschooled, they may be anxious about their futures or when they’ll see their friends again, and they may be worried about what the coming new year has in store. It is important to provide them a safe space to talk about these emotions so they do not bottle them up and express them in different ways. A school’s child counselor may be an option, or you can set time aside to talk with them at different intervals to gauge how they are doing.
2) Find Ways to Put a Positive Spin on Health Precautions for Kids During the Pandemic
To help support children through the pandemic, especially young children, it’s helpful to ease anxiety around health precautions and instead make the tasks fun and manageable. This can be in regards to handwashing, mask-wearing, social distancing, or other aspects.
Child counselors have recommended returning to old habits like singing the ABC’s while handwashing, so the focus is on the tune and song and not on the task. As is so important in most therapy, mindset is everything. Make masks out of fun patterns that kids want to wear, and don’t put negative pressure on social distancing but instead be excited about keeping distance, waving to people, and staying creative. If your kids are still struggling or you notice negative emotions tied to these actions, a child counselor can help recommend ways to encourage them in a positive way forward.
However you decide to do it, make light of the new health precautions while reinforcing how important they are. If kids see them in a fun light, they are more likely to follow through and have a positive mindset while doing so.
3) Put Together Virtual or Socially Distanced Group Activities for Kids, or Telehealth Therapy Sessions
Much like many child counselors are offering telehealth virtual sessions, you too can set up virtual events for your kids and teenagers. Social distance is highly important, but social distancing should not equate to complete social isolation. This is a tactic that can be used by both teachers and parents alike when trying to brainstorm social activities to keep kids engaged.
Whether you opt for online virtual hangouts, social distance outdoor get-togethers, or create a pod of friends to hang out with, it’s important to still provide socialization for your kids. They will enjoy talking with their friends, being active, and having someone to relate to during this uncertain time. However is safest for you and your family, encourage social activities in whatever manner possible.
4) Keep Up with Physical Activities and Limit Time on Social Media for Your Child’s Mental Health
Most of the time, teen therapists advise parents to limit their children’s time on social media. This is because social media has been linked to low self-esteem and negative feelings overall. While kids these days are connected in ways parents weren’t at their age, it is important to moderate time spent on social media for a healthy balance. The pandemic, especially, has seen an occurrence of “doomscrolling” where both adults and kids alike get stuck scrolling endlessly, seeing more and more negative news that impacts their mental health.
To help your child out, set aside time where there will be no social media, and preferably no screens. Encourage physical activities, for both physical and mental health. Walks, indoor activities, dancing, skating, and other activities will help your kid be active and give them a mental break. This will improve their mood and help them feel more positive.
5) For Kids Both In and Out of Child Mental Health Services, Honesty is Key
When kids ask you how you are handling the pandemic, be honest with them. While you don’t want to go overly negative, be honest if you are anxious, worried, concerned, or scared. You can feel these emotions and express them while also putting forth a positive, stable front. Kids can often tell when they are being lied to, and although you always want to be a pillar of strength and safety, sometimes the best way to do that is to show your emotions and how you are rising above them.
In some cases, family therapy will help you and your kids have an honest conversation about how the pandemic is affecting all of you. This can be a good way to learn how to talk about the tough subjects without shielding the information from your kids.
6) Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out to a Professional Child Therapist
If managing your child’s mental health during this time feels overwhelming, that is okay! Professional child therapists are in Ellicott City and The Family Center offers telehealth sessions and teen therapy. Sometimes a few sessions can be all that is needed to help kids express themselves and find stability and understanding.
No one is in this alone, so reach out when you need to and remember that you are doing your best in a tough and unpredictable situation.