Written by Dr. Eric Haynes
Psychological Assistant PSB 94022481
Phone: (424) 241-3549
Poach Consulting and Associates
Supervisor: Shannon Poach, Ph.D.
Routine, Routine, Routine:
Many mental health experts agree that keeping children structured throughout quarantines/lockdowns is a great way to help kids (specifically our young ones) stay on task in efficient and productive ways (1). This is especially true during school days. The vast majority of teachers keep a predictable schedule every day, designed to get your child into “work mode.” Although, you may be juggling work and household duties while kids are at home, you may consider designating an area of the house as a “work zone.” Set up the area looking like a makeshift classroom and require them to leave unnecessary electronics outside the work zone. Have a to-do list in the front of the “classroom” with the assignments they have to get done with scheduled breaks and a lunch time that coincides with your schedule to check on their progress. Keeping the same off to school morning schedule can help as well. Involve your child in the schedule planning the night before and, if it’s appropriate, you can have them “go into work” with you. They’ll feel so very special that they get to be all grown up going to work like Mom and Dad.
How to Evaluate Emotional Distress:
It can be difficult to determine whether your child is experiencing typical sadness or worry, versus anxiety or depression (2). Our teenagers may be especially vulnerable to stress during this unprecedented time in history due to them feeling isolated from peers, missing out on exciting developmental milestones, and being unsure about their academic futures. First, keep an eye on anything that’s significantly impacting their lives that’s out of the ordinary: starting major conflicts with parents or peers, school grades taking an unprecedented dip down, and isolating away from family and friends. Also, physical symptoms like constant stomach aches, headaches, loss/increase in appetite, and sleeping problems can be telltale signs your child might need your emotional support. Noting where and when these behaviors are exhibited can help you and your child explore solutions to their emotional needs. Listening and validating their feelings during this difficult time can go a long way in helping your child feel more at ease.
Children of all ages often take their cues from parents on how to view and cope with life’s many challenges (3). That’s why it’s imperative parents take some time to engage in self-care activities that decrease their stress, so they can stay calm and level headed. Put down the laptop and other work materials when the kids are down for bed. Have a quiet adult conversation between you and your partner, watch your favorite adult television show, or go for a walk during a cool summer night. Make childcare shifts with your partner so you can take time for yourself or if you have an important work assignment you know you’ll have a predictable large time frame to get it done. Finally, what I say to a lot of parents is to just be the “good enough” parent (4). No need to put pressure on yourself to morph into a seasoned well trained teacher or therapist overnight. The reality is your child will NOT have the best academic experience this year and they will be stressed during this pandemic. Do your best to teach your children what you can and just empathize with them on how difficult this is. The good news is children are resilient and can bounce back rather quickly from stressful situations. Learning how to cope with stress is an important life lesson. We all grow exponentially during the tough times, now you and your children can do it together.
1 Loguercio, K. (2020). Helping Your Kids Stay Focused on School During Coronavirus Pandemic. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/kids-learning-at-home
2 Magination Press Family (2020). Recognizing Anxiety in Children: How to Spot and Identify Symptoms. https://www.maginationpressfamily.org/stress-anxiety-in-kids/recognizing-anxiety-children-how-to-spot-and-identify-symptoms/
3 Moss, W.L. (2020). Fostering Resilience in the Time of COVID-19: Tips for HelpingYour Child. https://www.maginationpressfamily.org/mindfulness-kids-teens/fostering-resilience-in-a-time-of-the-coronavirus-tips-for-helping-your-child/
4 Gray, P. (2015). The good enough parent is the best parent. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201512/the-good-enough-parent-is-the-best-parent