Today, I want to talk about how we can support children’s mental well-being in a Pandemic. These are difficult times for parents and children across the globe.
Limited access to the outdoors, limited socialization with peers and uncertainty about the future can cause children to experience anxiety, aggressive behaviors, loss of appetite and disrupted sleep cycles.
Many 4 and 5 year olds are developmentally ready to start spending time in groups and make friends. These crucial developmental needs are currently unmet due to the Pandemic.
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO TO SUPPORT CHILDREN’S MENTAL WELL-BEING IN A PANDEMIC
Validate feelings and model healthy behavior
Accept the child’s feelings and do not blame him for being clingy, upset or demanding of you. When situations around you are unpredictable it is bound to have some impact on children too.
Even if the child is not yet verbal, he can sense the tension in the room. All of this impacts behaviors and we need to make space for the child to be able to express all these feelings.
Give your child situation and feelings specific words and phrases that he can use to express his feelings in a positive way.
You can also verbalize some of what you are feeling and talk about what you are doing to help yourself cope.
Use this time to practice some mental well being activities for children. Read books like this one that discusses feelings and how to cope with them, use feelings cards for the child to be able to name the feelings he is feeling.
The more we have open conversations about our feelings as a family, the better children do in time.
Include movement breaks
Young children need a lot of movement, it helps them calm down and staying indoors can have an effect on children who then resort to risky play.
Include a lot of movement breaks, be it yoga, indoor basket-ball, or balance board. Small breaks and exercise helps improve mood and focus.
Schedule one on one time
One on one time doesn’t necessarily mean long breaks away from work for you. All you need is 10 minutes of dedicated distraction free time at different points of the day.
Sit down with your child and join in his games, build lego together, color, solve a puzzle, chat or read books.
Focused together time helps the child feel a sense of support and calm.
Focus on calming and centering activities
Sensory play or art are great tools that can help children feel calm. During long days at home try and include at least 1 session of sensory play to help him feel relaxed and keep him engaged in independent work.
Do not hide facts. Talk about Covid 19, share resources or videos that can help understand, explain social distancing and importance of masks, how to conduct oneself when outside in public during Covid times.
Reassure that mommy and daddy are always there and ready to help with any questions.
Looking at the positives
Alongside, help your child focus on the positives in his life. Help him build a gratitude jar or write a journal. Family prayers are another way to stay calm and hopeful during such grim times.
With long breaks away from social groups children may feel isolated and alone. Help your child keep in touch with his peers. Schedule Zoom calls with friends or maybe even organize virtual pajama parties.
When things are getting out of hand don’t be afraid to seek help. Your child needs you and one of the ways you can be there for him is by getting expert help when needed.
How have you been helping your child cope with the pandemic? Do leave your suggestions so we all can learn from each other.