Mental health issues have been on the rise since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Children are experiencing increasing anxiety and depression with the loss of routines, special events and celebrations, and time to spend with extended family and friends. Many children are losing access to extra-curricular and athletic activities, where they feel supported and connected to communities that fuel their passions and interests, as well as promote regular healthy exercise.
“This past year has been incredibly stressful for families as our normal routines have been disrupted by frequent and sudden changes in school, child care, and social life,” says Kristy Gill, Clinician at Diversus Health. “It is important for parents to allow themselves and their children grace and humor. There is no perfect solution. We can use the pandemic as an opportunity to show children and ourselves how coming together safely as a community builds compassion and resilience.”
How can we help kids maintain their emotional and psychological resilience during COVID-19? When it comes to preventing and supporting mental health issues, here are five ways to help support your child:
1. Take Care of Yourself
Focusing on your own wellness is important for your children. The more you struggle with stress, the more your kids are likely to struggle with increased emotional and behavioral distress. Make time to take care of yourself and get regular exercise to release stress, boost your mood, and increase restful sleep. Be gentle with yourself. Put effort into solving problems and help your children whenever possible. Keep your expectations realistic and seek love and support when you need to let your feelings flow.
2. Teach Safe Social Contact
Your children do not have to suffer in complete isolation. Teach your kids how to have safe social contact so they can be part of the solution by following social distancing guidelines. Consider creative ways for your children to have contact with friends and family members outdoors. Practicing safe social contact is crucial to keeping spirits uplifted and maintaining resilience.
3. Focus on What They Can Control
Help your children combat feelings of fear and vulnerability. It is important to understand what steps your kids can focus on to exercise some control over their mental health and wellness. Share information with them about the importance of wearing a mask, washing their hands, and social distancing to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep them and their peers healthy. Generate positivity to help them take care of their mindset during the pandemic. Help to keep them informed in age-appropriate ways and help them feel proud of the sacrifices they are making. This can allow them to feel like part of the global effort to end the pandemic. Speak to your children openly, invite them to ask questions, and keep them updated about good news when spread rates are reduced and vaccines make breakthroughs.
4. Create Routines
Children thrive in predictable and familiar routines. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, regular routines and scheduled activities have been cancelled or paused. The uncertainty of when society will be able to get back to regular life makes things worse. Develop a routine for your children to help reduce anxiety and increase motivation. Encourage your kids to go to bed at the same time each night and wake them up at the same time each morning. Break their learning into chunks of time dedicated to work and play. Help your children maintain a routine that includes movement, ideally outside. Routines create structure and predictability that can support mental health.
5. Be Spontaneous
With the security of structure and routine, we all need a bit of spontaneity in our lives. Like adults, kids enjoy surprises and breaks in routine. Consider switching up your routine every now and then with small surprises like having a picnic in your backyard or eat dessert before dinner, before enjoying a family movie. Seek ways to have novel experiences such as driving to a location in your home state that you have never visited. Being spontaneous can be stimulating for the brain and a rush of feel-good endorphins can boost mental and emotional resilience in your children.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts at prevention, mental health issues arise. If you feel your child would benefit from additional support, consider reaching out to us at Diversus Health to schedule an appointment with one of our mental health providers. Our providers can offer guidance and insights to help support your child’s mental health during COVID-19.
*If you need to speak to someone immediately, contact our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.