Children's Mental Health During The COVID-19 Crisis
April 21, 2020
Children are more flexible and more open to using technology to communicate. That is a positive that should be highlighted.
Explain COVID-19 in an age-appropriate manner.
Encourage children to share what they know and understand about COVID-19.
Do not minimize children’s feelings. Parents and caregivers have to be cognizant of the fact that children are affected by what they hear on the news and what parents say.
Give children an alternative narrative.
Practice grounding techniques.”5-4-3-2-1 game” is a common sensory awareness grounding exercise that many find a helpful tool to relax or get through difficult moments. The person is asked to describe 5 items in the room, 4 sounds they hear, 3 things they feel, 2 things they smell, and one taste. The person should feel calmer and more at ease by the end of the exercise. Repeat the 5 steps more than once if needed.
Parents/caregivers should look for clues of unexpressed feelings.
Let very young children know it is not their fault that people are not smiling or interacting the same way with them (Not hugging or being able to go play with friends).
Activities are important. Have a Game Day. Do not feel like every part of the day has to be structured. Think outside of the box. Create new games. People on YouTube have come up with great ideas. There are also free game apps online. Neighborhood scavenger hunts is one example.
Grace is very important for this time - grace for yourself and for your child. You do not need the extra pressure of trying to get everything right.
Discipline may consist of limiting time on electronics. Do not discipline children by making them spend more time alone in their room.
Student-athletes cannot do traditional practice and are grieving the suspension of their season; however, they can still go for a walk, run or find a way to integrate solitary practices into a group video. Ms. Ryans gave the example of her daughter, who plays volleyball, “peppering the ball’” together with her team via video.
Families must stay connected. A few options to communicate are Facetime, Zoom or Google Meet. These are free apps that can be used, to connect.
Make things fun and funny. Make adjustments to your schedule and how you do things. It is ok.
Calm Jars, also called sensory bottles or glitter jars, help youth (and parents ) to self-regulate. CLICK HERE for more information.
Create a gratitude list. It is easier to gain perspective if you realize that despite the changes there are good things about quarantine, such as more time with parents or not getting up early.
People are going through big and little traumas and we must address them and allow time to process them. Lighthouse Center for Therapy & Play was created to address traumas and can be contacted at (443) 864-5647. For more information, visit their website.
Roberta’s house specializes in grief and loss and can be contacted at (410) 235-6633. For more information visit their website.
Racial inequities can be addressed now by letting children know they have a voice. For history not to repeat itself, children should know that everyone’s experience during the COVID-19 crisis is not the same. We have the opportunity to voice the disparities and make the changes needed.
Suspected abuse of children should still be reported. Even during the COVID-19 crisis, the crisis response team is still working. The team consists of one police officer and a social worker, and they are still responding to calls.