A pandemic is a confusing and scary time for everyone but especially parents. They have to wade through an online landscape pitted with misinformation in their search for the best ways to keep their kids safe.
However, children also face their challenges. The pandemic brought a shocking rise in teen suicides, and 53%of employees with children say they missed at least one day of work a month to help their child with mental health struggles. What can you do to improve this outlook? Here are five ways parents can support their children’s mental health in the age of COVID-19.
1. Look For Wholesome Activities
Do you know what happened after previous pandemics, even world wars? Life went on. It does for you and your children, too. Maintaining a normal routine is one of the best ways to demonstrate this principle to your kids.
If you’re homeschooling, imitate the traditional classroom as much as possible — including taking your kids on virtual field trips. You can find tons of online resources where your kiddos can learn to code or knit, applying what they learned in their daily classes to real-life situations or exploring fun new hobbies.
2. Spend More Time Outdoors
Mother nature has healing powers. Studies show she can do everything from improving your mood to boosting your immunity — both vital during a pandemic. Your kids will benefit from the fresh air and fitness in body and mind.
Taking your kids to the playground helps them meet their exercise quota for the day. They can run, skip and jump to their heart’s content. The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines state that children aged 5 through 17 need at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity. You can squeeze in a workout, too — try a few monkey bar pullups or use a picnic bench to guide your squat depth.
3. Validate And Help Them Process Emotions
Kids aren’t immune from world news. Even if you keep television to a minimum at home, they’re sure to encounter mixed messages when out in public. Some of them may leave them feeling afraid.
Please don’t invalidate your child’s feelings by saying things like, “there’s nothing to worry about,” or, “don’t be a scaredy-cat.” Instead, let them know it’s natural to feel uncertainty, informing them that adults get frightened sometimes, too. Invite them to talk about their feelings and help them process their fears.
Then, brainstorm healthy ways to deal with these big feelings. You can suggest things like coloring a picture, writing in a journal or finding a way to help someone else in need.
4. Introduce Them To Healthy Stress-Reduction Techniques
Just as children aren’t immune from adult feelings, they’re not too young to learn how to regulate their emotions in healthy ways. Learning stress-reduction techniques as a child stays with them for life, providing them with coping mechanisms through countless ups and downs.
For example, even young children can practice deep breathing and yoga. Schools that have implemented such programs as an alternative to discipline like detention have seen significant improvements in behavior.
Mindfulness pulls children away from fears of an uncertain future or ruminations about an unchangeable past. You can teach them exercises like performing a body scan or slowly savoring a square of chocolate.
5. Consider Professional Help
Finally, there’s no shame in seeking professional help. Your child’s brain is an organ like any other, and problems can arise when things go wrong with it. The right treatment can get them back on a healthier path.
Fortunately, you have options for coverage, even if you don’t have health insurance yourself. You can apply for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through the Marketplace. If you qualify, you’ll get access to free and low-cost services, including mental health.
Ways Parents Can Support Their Children’s Mental Health
Being a parent during a pandemic is tough. So is growing up during one.
As an adult, it’s your job to do what you can to support your little ones. Follow the five tips above to support your child’s mental health in the age of COVID-19.