07 May Supporting our Kids in Difficult Times
Mental Health Awareness Month could not have come at a better time! Living with a global pandemic is challenging. And for some, the increased anxiety, the isolation, and the worry for loved ones could be tipping points for a slide into diminished or compromised mental health.
So, let me ask: Are the kids alright? And if we are unsure, what are some things we can do to support our kids?
It’s possible your kids are innately resilient, well adjusted, and are cruising along in this new normal with nary a hiccup. That’s great! And yet, many parents have reported to me that their kids are a bit stressed out.
Why might some kids be stressed out?
For starters, they are scared. They are absorbing the grim news that many people are sick and many have died. It’s unnerving.
They miss their friends. It’s been almost two months now and they really want to hang out with their friends again – in a basement, at the playground – like the old days. Teenagers especially crave time with their friends; it’s their oxygen.
They are grieving losses. Some lost birthday parties, the entire spring sports season, the 8th grade trip to DC, Moving On Ceremonies, Prom, Graduation … and on and on and on. There are so many meaningful losses for them to navigate.
What can parents do to support their kids?
- Listen and validate. And then – listen and validate some more. Don’t offer advice unless asked. Reassure them that as a family you are controlling all the things you can control to keep everyone safe, e.g., hand-washing, mask-wearing, physical distancing, etc.
- Offer to brainstorm creative solutions to current challenges. For example, drive them to a friend’s house, roll down the car windows, and let them chat with their friends from a safe distance.
- Reassure them that, while this is unprecedented, many professionals are working around the clock to develop vaccines and medicines.
- Create structure. Schedule school time, outdoor time, down time, family time, etc.
- Let in all the light and fresh air that a Spring in New England will allow!
And, if you are concerned that your child is slipping into a depressed or anxious place, trust your instincts, and contact your pediatrician.
Please reach out to me if you would like to check in with someone. As a parent of three kids and a public health professional, I am always eager to offer parents support. (I am not, however, a clinical social worker.)
Lisa Gibalerio, MPH, is a Prevention Specialist at Wayside Youth and Family Support Network and a Tween/Teen Professional Consultant with The Loved Child. She can be reached at lisa_gibalerio@waysideyouth.