featured guest blog post by: Kaleigh Boysen-Quinata Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and parent coach.
As a family therapist, I received a lot of questions from parents on how they can help their children. But one of the most often asked questions I hear right now is how they can best support their kids during the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Support Kids In A Pandemic
Children may feel a wide range of new emotions that can contribute to stress and anxiety because of the uncertain conditions in the world around them.
Many children are experiencing isolation from a lack of social time with peers, whether it be school or activities outside the home.
Some signs your child is dealing with stress because of uncertainty are:
- asking lots of similar questions associated with the pandemic
- having difficulty concentrating on a routine or minor tasks
- more meltdowns or tantrums in younger children
- changes in appetite
- worrying excessively
- having trouble sleeping
Children sometimes act in ways out of character for them because of stress or anxiety. If you are noticing changes, you are not alone! Anytime a child’s world feels different, uncertain, or out of control can lead to changes in their appetite, sleeping habits, and how they react to things.
Here are some ways parents can provide emotional support, whether your child is showing outward signs of struggling or more internal.
1. Check In Regularly
Offer a way to check-in emotionally as a family. Little kids need to know adults are working through tough times. Allowing a platform to talk about feelings as a family is important.
Many families do a “rose, thorn, and bud” discussion at dinner time. Encourage children to talk about the best part of their day, a tough part, and something they are looking forward to. Some families use feelings charts to help children identify emotions. This works great with smaller children that feel different but maybe don’t understand exactly why.
Choose an approach that works best for your family. The key is routine and scheduling this regularly. When everyone shares how they are feeling and their emotions, it helps normalize things for children and helps them realize it is normal to feel this way during hard times.
2. Take A Mental Health Day
When your body is dealing with stress, daily responsibilities can feel hard to maintain. It’s okay if your kids need to take a mental health day occasionally or need to reduce the amount of school work completed. Taking care of themselves and their mental health are more important than completing every assignment.
3. Instill Hope For The Future.
Kids live in the present. They don’t have the same perspective that adults do. A year is a long time for a child, to deal with such a significant event in their life! Talk to your child about their favorite activities or friends and family who they might miss. Write, draw or talk about things they want to do in the future when the pandemic is over. Plan for a vacation or a fun day with friends. Get them excited, things will get better, and that there is much to look forward to.
4. Focus On Safety.
If your child seems anxious about COVID or worried about friends or relatives getting sick, focus on highlighting how your family can stay safe and keep others safe. Reassure them by saying, “We wear our masks to keep ourselves and others safe” or “we are staying home this year instead of visiting grandpa so that we can help keep grandpa safe.”
While it can help kids feel less eager to have some information about what’s happening, try not to focus too much on discussing deaths and illness in front of your child, even if you are feeling anxious about it.
Self-care has become such a buzzword these days, and one of the top searched for topics of 2021. But as parents, we need to take time to care for ourselves so that we can be there to support our children.
Take some time to do the things that help recharge your batteries. Whether that’s listening to music, reading, drawing, enjoying a bath, taking a walk- whatever helps you relax and recharge.
The other benefits of self-care are that your kids see you modeling. Asking for what you need and learning that it’s okay to take breaks is a wonderful thing to teach your children. It gives them permission to do it too when they need it!
It’s Your Turn
What struggles are you seeing in your children? Are you seeing changes that seem to last longer than a few days or things that have you concerned? If so, please reach out to a family counselor or myself for some things you can try at home to help your child cope.
Moms Know Best
Okay, moms, we want to hear from you. What are some creative ways you have found to help your child and family through the pandemic? Tell us how you have passed the time, creative ways you have discussed difficult topics, and ways you have promoted self-care.
Kaleigh Boysen-Quinata is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and parent coach. She helps parents understand and support their children’s emotional needs. She owns a mental health practice in Portland, OR called Family Roots Therapy, and teaches Positive Discipline parenting courses and workshops through her parent coaching business, Parenting for Emotional Health.
Instagram: @parentingforemotionalhealth and @familyrootstherapypdx
Facebook parenting group (Parenting for Emotional Health): https://www.facebook.com/groups/1293063320838897