Being a parent is difficult under normal circumstances; it is even harder right now. Our own stress levels are high, and we see signs of anxiety in our children. Is this normal? Is there anything we can do? Your pediatrician, as always, is a great resource for anything having to do with your children. Telehealth visits are a perfect way to touch-base with your pediatrician over specific concerns related to your child and stress, anxiety or depression. Allied telehealth visits are covered by all insurance plans and there is no co-pay to use this service.
These general guidelines may be helpful as well:
We listen to news broadcasts and read online about COVID-19 illnesses and how our country is responding, our anxiety levels will tend to increase. We hunker down with our families and worry about our kids, elderly relatives and ourselves. Many parents are essential workers and worry about bringing home the illness to their families. Being a parent is difficult under normal circumstances, even harder today.
While our anxieties will increase at these times, we should remember our children will follow our lead. Parents should take the quantity and content of information that their children hear and adjust it to their child’s individual emotional needs. Enjoy some time as a family. Keep an eye out for problems.
Young children are wondering why there are no activities, school or playdates. Reassure them that they are safe, and everyone is staying home to keep everyone healthy. Stay calm and use words and tones that will make them feel a sense of calm. Mr. Rogers quote “Look for the helpers, you will always find people who are helping”, seems like the appropriate quote for calming young children. Tell them people like doctors and nurses are working hard to keep everyone safe. It’s ok to say you don’t have all the answers.
Older children are more aware of what is going on. Let them ask questions. Validate their feelings, give simple direction and reassuring answers. Repeat what we are hearing from the professionals. “Wash your hands, don’t touch your face and social distancing are most important to prevent the spread of the virus.” Encourage them to do schoolwork and help out around the house. Actual teaching/learning does not always happen in the “classroom.” Cooking and baking are great ways to learn math, fractions, and for older kids, Chemistry. If your family thrives on routine, make sure you keep it. If your family excels in chaos, enjoy this time and don’t set that schedule. If possible, virtual playdates are great. Showing your children their friends are fine, and doing the same as they are, can be very reassuring. If they are showing signs of anxiety such as sleepiness, sleeplessness, jumpy, decrease in appetite, you should reach out to your pediatrician. These discussions can be done by telehealth with the pediatrician that knows your family.
Your teens are online and probably giving you more information than you want. Talk about what the trusted information sources are and what is possibly fake news. Teens can get nervous and many of their end of school year plans have been disrupted and they are feeling angry. Teens might want to see their friends beyond Facetime and Zoom. Discuss the safety issues and reinforce the stay at home orders that we are under. Empathize with them. We cannot really understand what they are going through since these are unique times. Physical activity can help. When the weather is nicer, encourage them to get outside. Talk about plans for the future and how any event missed might be made up or delayed. Again, reach out to your pediatrician if you think your teen is experiencing depression or anxiety
Your pediatrician is your first and most trusted resource. They will help, if more help is needed, and will find the right person for your child. These are hard times for everyone. Don’t forget that parents should take time for themselves. The better you are, the better you are to take care of your family.
Please remember, we are not stuck at home, we are safe at home.
We will get through this together.