It has been almost eight months since we first began dealing with the effects of COVID-19; as it continues, our children will continue to have questions about their current and ongoing situations, especially since their normal routines have changed! Schools closing to in-person instruction, going to remote learning, and all their team sports canceled for the year are just a few of the disruptions. Children may display signs of worry about themselves, their families, and their friends. I have seen the depression set in with my child. He is nine years old, and the lack of social interaction has taken its toll.
During normal times our words, practices, and actions can help our children cope with their feelings and help guide their reactions to their current situation. As important as this is during regular times, it is amplified tenfold during our current climate. Children react to what we say and how we say it. They “absorb” what we say to others and pick up on our body language. The calmer we seem, the more relaxed our children will be, which helps them better understand the information they are being told.
As parents, we need to ensure we are also taking care of ourselves too. As many of us are working from home, we also may be trying to manage multiple work schedules on top of our child's online school expectations. It is a lot. We have got to try not to stretch ourselves too thin. Be gentle with yourself and with each other. We all need to let go of some expectations of normal to accommodate our new temporary reality. With all of this going on, it is imperative that we find time to support our own mental well-being somehow. Mental health practices are not a luxury, especially now. We do not do our best work when we are overstressed, and it can impact our health and our children.
We must make time to talk with children when they are worried. They need to know they can express their feelings and ask questions and that we can take the time to answer their questions. I have seen with my own son a change in his mental well-being by committing to getting outside as a family and taking him fishing and crawdad hunting on the weekends. We take the time to play more board games as a family, and we have also started a family challenge focusing on nutrition and exercise. The one who has the best numbers at the end of the week gets a prize. We are all participating in the challenge and holding each other accountable to this new routine as it helps to shift our focus on what we have control over and take the focus off what we can’t control, which is the COVID-19 virus and its effects on our daily lives at this moment.
With all the external stressors happening in our lives, it is more important than ever before to treat everyone with kindness. You never know what someone is dealing with, so please be kind!