I'm sure you've read the headlines in recent months around how the pandemic is impacting the mental health of our kids. According to several studies, anxiety and depression are increasing significantly in children and adolescence. I see the challenges my own daughter has faced and hear of similar from her friends' parents. With many schools still remote, they are not seeing friends in person and not getting the important social interactions they need. This can be very difficult for them and extremely concerning and stressful for us as parents.
Talking about this important issue helps shine a light on it and reminds us we are all facing unprecedented challenges and are not alone.
After looking at several websites and articles about this, I've consolidated some of the helpful tips here. Links to some of the articles are below as well.
Here are some possible signs that your older children/adolescents may need more support:
changes in mood that are not usual for your child, such as ongoing irritability, feelings of hopelessness or rage, and frequent conflicts with friends and family.
changes in behavior, such as stepping back from personal relationships. If your ordinarily outgoing tween shows little interest in texting or video chatting with their friends, for example, this might be cause for concern.
a loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed.
a hard time falling or staying asleep, or starting to sleep all the time.
changes in weight or eating patterns, such as never being hungry or eating all the time.
problems with memory, thinking, or concentration.
less interest in schoolwork and drop in academic effort.
thoughts about death or suicide, or talking about it (links below have important information around this).
What Parent's Can Do To Help:
1. Get support for yourself
Ensuring that you're taking care of yourself and that you are mentally healthy, allows you to better cope with the stressors around you and help others. A regular workout, meditation, a hot bath, or talking to a therapist are all things that can help. Find what works for you to be at your strongest.
2. When your child shares their feelings, react calmly and be accepting
As a parent, we all want our kids to be happy all the time, but we also know this is not realistic. So when they open up and share how they are feeling, try to stay calm and open. Show empathy and validate their feelings. Ask questions instead of jumping into a lecture.
3. Help them problem-solve and find reasons to be hopeful
Tell them you're in this together and ask what they think might help. Brainstorm ideas with them.
4. Find new ways for them to connect with others
Even while having to social distance, think of ways they can still connect with friends and family. For those inside the home, have a specific time each week you do something fun together. For those outside the home, maybe it's a game they can play with their friends.
5. Lots of love
Kids are getting less physical contact than usual right now, so be sure to shower them with extra hugs and kisses to remind them how loved they are.
We are all living in a challenging time right now and providing an open, supportive, and loving environment can help all of us! ❤️