Our mission is to empower families to raise resilient, independent youth by focusing on mental health and emotional wellness.
Dear Friends,

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the webinar series we recently presented in partnership with Compass Health Center : Managing the Flood of Emotions Brought on by a Pandemic . We hope you received answers to your questions and have developed some skills and strategies to help yourselves and your children.

This email includes the full summary of part two (Supporting Our Children's Ongoing Needs) along with links to many other resources. Here's the summary from part one (Helping Adults Cope) and a link to the recordings of both sessions .

Please take a moment to fill out this survey so we can continue planning relevant and meaningful programs.

Stay well and stay safe.

The CATCH Team
Supporting Our Children During COVID-19
Lessons from Part 2 of CATCH/CompassWebinar Series
Parenting in typical times is no small task, and now, in the face of a worldwide pandemic, it has become monumental. A team of experts from Compass Health Center shared advice on coping skills, parenting strategies, and more during part two of the webinar series,  Managing a Flood of Emotions During a Pandemic:  Supporting Our Children’s Ongoing Needs , presented by CATCH and Compass on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.
Before jumping into specific strategies and tools, the Compass panelists encouraged parents to really examine how life has changed for their children.  Our kids now have one place to do everything.  Home serves as school, the gym, the dance studio, and more.  Also, consider the amount of supervision younger children had before and the independence to which older children were accustomed.  They also had more people in their lives.  As a result, parents are filling more roles than ever: parent, teacher, coach, etc. “Parenting is the hardest job out there, and definitely is at a whole other level right now,” said Roz Lessem, LCPC, Compass Family Therapist & Therapeutic Placement Consultant .
Alex Timchak
In addition, our children are facing an incredible amount of loss including traditional school, sports seasons, prom, and graduation. Many are wondering how will we cope when school starts?   Dr. Alex Timchak, Compass Medical Director and Child, Adolescent & Adult Psychiatrist , explained these losses can trigger two kinds of grief.   Anticipatory grief occurs as they wait to hear about what’s ahead knowing there’s a decent chance something bad will happen like summer programs getting cancelled. Disenfranchised grief describes grief that isn’t socially recognized.

So, how do we support our kids in the midst of these unprecedented circumstances?
Understanding & Tolerating Emotions

Children may not have the vocabulary to name their emotions.  Perhaps that’s why we hear  I’m fine  and  everything’s ok from our kids.   Margaret Lewis, LCSW, Director of the Adolescent Partial Hospitalization Program at Compass , shared a feelings chart we can use with our children to help them find the right words to describe their emotions. "There's a great power in being able to name how we're feeling and share that. Sometimes we refer to it in the therapy world as if you can name it, you can tame it, and having that name can help to normalize that the emotion is shared by other people. It's ok to experience," Lewis said.

She also explained that it’s useful to teach our children to think of feelings as a house guest.  "If someone rings the doorbell, we invite them in, greet them, sit with them, and also know in our heads that they'll leave, and that can be the same for emotions," she said. It’s important to know the emotions will not last forever.
Grounding Skills

When emotions are heating up, the following skills, Lessem said, can make you and your child literally feel more grounded.

4 x 4 Breathing : Inhale for the count of four, hold your breath for the count of four, and exhale for the count of four.  "With four by four, a message is literally being sent to your brain to slow down," said Lessem, adding, "It gives your brain a break from intensive or intrusive thoughts. This is true for all of the skills that we teach as they are based in mindfulness."

5 Senses:   Look for ways to stimulate your senses by mindful eating, listening to music, looking at a photo of your favorite place, playing with a fidget, chewing gum, or eating a mint.  Lessem said it’s key to make a Coping Bag ahead of time with a few items so it’s ready when you need it.

ABC Mindfulness:   Choose a topic and come up with a word that relates to it for each letter of the alphabet.
T : Seek a  temperature change  by holding an ice cube or taking a warm shower.  
I : Participate in  intense exercise  like doing a wall sit or plank for 60 seconds.  
P : Do  progressive muscle relaxation  by sitting in a chair and pushing and pulling on the seat with your hands or engaging and releasing your muscles by focusing on one part of your body at a time from head to toe.
If your teenagers roll your eyes at these suggestions, Dr. Timchak suggests you tell them about Former Bulls Coach Phil Jackson whose use of mindfulness and meditation has led his teams to world championships. “It may give you some street cred with teens who think these tips don’t apply to them,” he said.
Coping Skills
HALT  stands for hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.  When your child is struggling, ask: Is there a small step that can meet one of those basic needs?
BORED   "Feeling bored and sitting in it can actually help us develop our problem solving skills," said Lewis. This acronym offers ideas of things kids can do in these moments.
  • Be creative
  • Get outside
  • Read or do something exploratory
  • Exercise
  • Do something for others

Changing the Channel : If your child is stuck on an emotion or thought, remind them that they have more than one channel in their brain and can make the choice to switch their focus either by adjusting their mindset or finding a new activity.

Self-care : This doesn’t have to be a trip to the spa.  Anything that connects us to our bodies can provide relief, so a short walk or taking a break can make a difference.
Parenting Strategies

While helping our kids learn coping skills, it’s important we parent effectively.   Some approaches work better than others.
Suggestions vs. Expectations
Don’t be surprised if your kids ignore your suggestions because they don’t hear your words as directions.  Rather, make your expectations clear and, most importantly, consistent, whether you want them to empty the dishwasher every day, show you their academic work, or get outside for 30 minutes.  

Validating vs. Fixing
It’s impossible to fix every problem for our children, but we can validate their feelings, and that can be more important.  Our children want to feel understood, so it's comforting to say something like, “I hear you are frustrated.”  Lessem suggests taking a pro-active approach and asking, “What would be most helpful?” which gives your child a role in problem solving and coping with their emotions.

Identify the Positives
Notice your child's accomplishments even if it's something small like taking out the garbage. "It helps your kids to know you are paying attention to what they are doing well," said Lessem. "It also can be helpful for a parent or guardian to remind yourself of what your kids are doing well when there are so many expectations or demands."
Tolerating Uncertainty & Making Plans

Uncertainty is always a part of our daily lives, but the current conditions have intensified the ambiguity of life.  It’s important we guide our children to recognize what they can and cannot control. This thinking will allow them to find radical acceptance of the situation and even search for the silver lining.  For example, it’s disappointing they can’t go to their favorite after-school activity, but at least they can participate online.

Planning amidst uncertainty is particularly difficult, but it may be more manageable if we plan for things to be challenging, and cope ahead .  That means create moments for everyone to disengage, preserve energy, or find some space.  

Teachers, parents, and students are all trying to adjust to e-learning.  It’s unchartered territory for everyone.  Stick to a routine as much as possible, which will mitigate stress, and incorporate breaks.

Recognize that this moment in time offers our children an opportunity to develop advocacy skills as they reach out to their teacher.  “We are building a very resilient generation of children and adolescents who are going to have skills whether it's independently studying or tolerating not knowing if they got something right because of a delay with an email or Zoom,” said Lewis.  

What about the child who says the e-learning doesn’t affect their grade and is not motivated to do their work?  Lewis said remind your child that they need to keep exercising the muscle in their brain.  Otherwise, it’s going to make it harder to get back to traditional school when the time comes to do so.
Talking about COVID-19

Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about the new coronavirus.  They are probably hearing about it anyway and are looking to you for answers.  Tell the truth in a developmentally appropriate way, and if you don’t know something, be honest.  Your kids will know if you are spinning a tale. Remember to deal with your own anxiety first.  They will pick up on your emotions.
For younger kids, encourage symbolic play with dolls and legos.  It’s active, and you will learn a lot about what they are thinking and feeling.

Dr. Timchak recommends the children’s book,  Trinka and Sam: Fighting the Big Virus .  It tells the story of a how the coronavirus has spread to Littletown causing changes in everyone's lives.
Responding to Pressure from your Children

Many parents are facing pressure from children who want to get outside, visit a grandparent, or spend time with friends.  Dr. Timchak said it emphatically: “It is ok to say no.  Limits are love.”

He pointed to  NBA Commissioner Adam Silver who showed great leadership when he made the unpopular and shocking decision to cancel the remainder of the NBA season way back on March 11 th .  That move likely prevented more than a million fans from exposure and had a tremendous snowball effect on the rest of the sports world.  “As a parent, we have to make unpopular decisions, and sometimes that can lead to positive outcomes,” said Timchak.
What About All That Screen-Time?

Yes, all of this time at home is easily going to lead to more screen time for your kids. Dr. Timchak said you can help your children find balance by setting expectations about how much screen time is allowed and following through on it. "Of course, they are going to protest," he said, "but if you really want a sobering thing, ask to see what their screen time is and use that as a benchmark."

You can also demonstrate good habits for your children by pointing out how you are taking breaks yourself throughout the day and getting away from your own screen.
When to Ask for Help

The reality of life right now can trigger a number of distress reactions including sleep disruptions, nausea, and headaches.  Dr. Timchak reviewed signs that it’s time to ask for help:

  • Major shift in mood or activity level
  • Increased irritability, verbal or physical aggression
  • Talk of suicide or self-harm
  • Using substances at home/not caring about getting caught
  • Intrusive thoughts about COVID-19 that are impairing

If you see any of these behaviors become a pattern for your child, it may be time to reach out to a medical professional like your child's pediatrician or a mental health expert.

Compass recommends these resources as a place to start:

Managing IEPs

We know families with children with IEPs are facing unique challenges.

This article provides information on how to handle IEPs during the coronoavirus crisis.

Two local experts in our community are available to answer questions from families navigating IEPs:

Dr. Lisa Novak, Pediatric Neuropsychologist 

Shira Schwartz, Educational Advocate
Additional Resources

Sound Mind Counseling is a small private practice currently offering an initial complimentary 50-minute telehealth session.

Yellowbrick offers a unique therapeutic approach for adolescents and emerging adults.
Lessons from Part 1: Helping Adults Cope
During the first webinar, experts from  Compass Health Cente r explained we can best cope with the flood of emotions brought on by a pandemic by naming our emotions (see the Emotion Wheel), learning to navigate them, and understanding when to ask for help. 
Give us Your Feedback
Were these webinars helpful? What other topics are on your mind? Please take a few minutes to fill out this survey. Let us know your thoughts so we can plan the most relevant programming in the days ahead. Your ideas and input are important to CATCH.

We are so grateful to the clinical staff and trauma experts at Compass Health Center who provided their expertise to help all of us manage the flood of emotions brought on by this pandemic.
CATCH is dedicated to making a difference in our community.
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