Parenting is tough enough as it is, albeit trying to parent during a pandemic. With everything going on, chances are you and your family’s lives have suddenly changed. In fact, many families are now trying or preparing to navigate the complicated road of distance learning.
While this is not how anyone pictured this year going, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that this is our reality right now. And just like the new normal is probably taking a toll on your mental health, it is likely also affecting your child’s mental health as well. Here are a few things you can do to help your child’s mental health during stressful times such as these:
Take Care of Your Mental Health
One of the most important ways to help your child is to simply help yourself. Although this may sound selfish at first, taking care of your own mental health allows you to be in the right head space to help your child. Not only that, but your child can learn how to manage their mental health by watching how you manage yours. Therefore it is necessary for you to set aside some time each day where you can assess and deal with emotions and stress. Since this is much easier said than done, it may be beneficial for you to work with a licensed psychologist who can help you develop strategies for dealing with your mental health as a parent.
Create a Sense of Safety and Security
With so much uncertainty happening right now, your child needs to know that they can depend on you to take care of them and keep them safe. Caring for their physical needs like hunger, thirst, and comfort, as well as their emotional needs such as addressing fear, anxiety, or sadness helps your child feel more connected to you. Finding little ways to demonstrate you love them while providing for them can make them feel safer and more secure.
Keep Them Connected
While scheduling play dates or going to the park may not be possible during a pandemic, there are other ways you can keep your children connected to friends and family outside of your household. Scheduling virtual play dates keeps your children connected to their friends, while family conference calls can allow them to speak with grandparents, cousins, or other important family members. You can also get creative with other ways of staying connected, such as scheduling socially distant visits or writing letters to loved ones.
Keep Your Routine
Chances are quarantine life is lacking a daily routine. However, children thrive on consistency and daily routines, and it provides them with a sense of security. While your normal routine may not be possible at the moment, establishing a new daily routine will help your children to better deal with quarantine life. During this time, it is also important to stay consistent with discipline and rewards as well. Creating clear expectations for your children helps to alleviate anxiety about the unknown.
Promote Healthy Habits
Part of this daily routine should encompass healthy habits. Eating healthy meals, doing enough physical activity or exercise, and getting enough sleep are all important aspects of your child’s daily routine that are good for both their physical and mental health. Incorporating a daily mindfulness activity may also be another way to help them with their mental health and will add to your daily routine.
Teach Them How to Manage Stress
Stress is an inevitable part of daily life and the sooner your child learns how to manage their stress, the better they will feel. Talking with your child, having them write in a journal, talking with a friend, exercising, or spending time with a pet are all possible ways you can encourage your child to manage their stress. However, since every child handles stress differently, they may be unable to recognize that what they are feeling is stress. Therefore, if your child seems like they are experiencing distress or if you have noticed their behavior has suddenly changed, you should schedule an appointment with a child psychologist. A child psychologist can provide you with a professional insight on how to help your child, while also working with your child to determine what strategies will help them.
Dr. Miller is trained in Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She is also trained in Anesthesia and Pain Management. Because of her broad experience, Dr. Miller is uniquely qualified to treat psychological trauma, depression and anxiety that can occur as a result of injury or disability. For more information, schedule a consultation at NJ Family Psychiatry & Therapy.