A pediatrician’s guide to helping kids cope during the COVID-19 pandemic
Now more than ever, children need help coping with the overwhelming and challenging times brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Routines have been suddenly disrupted, schools are being held virtually, and kids are struggling to understand why they can’t see their friends.
“School is a major contributor to social, emotional and nutritional support for children. Since schools are online, pediatricians are worried children are missing out on these crucial areas of support,” said Dr. Lin-Lin Remenar, a pediatrician at Crystal Run Healthcare’s Middletown offices. “We also know some children are facing additional burdens, with parents, grandparents, loved ones, friends or neighbors being infected by this disease. Plus, many families are being financially impacted, which creates another layer of stress.”
As a parent, you may be feeling pulled in many different directions right now. Focusing on your children’s needs can help you feel more connected as a family, and reduce some of the stress you’re feeling in turn.
Stimulation is key during this time of isolation
Although children are practicing social distancing, it’s important for parents to help fill the gaps so they’re not losing social or intellectual stimulation. Try one or all of the below tips to help keep your child engaged:
Take a virtual family vacation — Many websites are offering tours of popular sites and historic spots that you only need a computer or smartphone to access. Make it a fun activity for the whole family. Show your children the view from the Tokyo Tower; or the woods at Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada — just to name a few options. Take turns picking new places out of a hat so everyone is included in the decision-making.
Visit your favorite museum or explore a new one — Several popular museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, The British Museum, and the National Gallery of Art are all currently offering virtual tours. You can easily turn your visits into an art lesson by asking your children to name the artists associated with their favorite paintings or by revealing fun facts about the different time periods.
Watch a Broadway show — Many high-quality shows are available for streaming right now, including “Shrek the Musical” on Netflix and “Fiddler on the Roof” on Amazon Prime. Incorporate exercise by creating a family dance number after the musical.
Remember, fun and education can be intertwined in unexpected ways. Get those creative juices flowing.
Mental health matters, too
As with adults, mental health in children is a concern as we navigate through these challenging times. While keeping kids busy and stimulated can help them (and you, of course), you can make the whole ordeal feel less chaotic by:
Keeping routines. Stick to schedules for bedtimes, meals, school work, exercise and family activities.Keeping an open dialogue with kids about emotions and stress. Remove the family from distractions and spend time discussing feelings. Ask questions to make sure your children aren’t trying to put on a brave face.Embracing the time together and being grateful for health. This one comes with a hidden sense of guilt, but it’s OK to feel thankful for the health of your family throughout these days.
If your children are struggling with their emotions and mental health, it may be time to speak with a professional. It may even be beneficial to have a family counseling session.
All children are different and will cope differently
It’s important for parents to understand that this is a time that can be difficult for children, but not all children will have the same reaction. Some children will have difficulty adjusting, while others will have no issues at all. Communication and paying attention to changes in behavior and demeanor are key to determining if your child is struggling.
There are some children that may have difficulty with a new style of learning, socializing and living. Some days may be hard, and children may act out or not listen. Online education may be a battle and the only solace comes when they are watching a movie. If that’s the case, let them watch a movie. “If some days all the schedules are followed, all the work is complete, the house is clean and the meals are served without an issue — that is amazing!” said Dr. Aimée Kahn, pediatrician at Crystal Run Healthcare in West Nyack.
On other days, breakfast may start at noon, no homework will get done, and the house will be a mess. But spending quality hours with your child listening to them, hearing how they feel, discussing their hopes and aspirations, snuggling under a blanket and watching a few episodes of their favorite show together can have a positive effect on your mood and theirs and help you tune in to how they’re really managing the situation.
“Take advantage of this opportunity for you and your child to enjoy special and irreplaceable moments together,” said Kahn. “If we can embrace the perspective that one silver lining in all of this is an opportunity to get to know our children better and nurture our relationships with them, everyone will benefit.”
Here are a few other helpful resources for parents:
To help you ease your kid’s anxiety about COVID-19Suggestions on how to manage working from homeFind various resources in your local area at findhelp.orgAccess free and confidential emotional support through the New York State Office of Mental Health hotline for those living in New York: 844-863-9314
Here are a few other helpful resources for students:
Website for kids to ask questions of a mental health provider anonymouslyArticles about mental health issuesMindfulness techniques for different ages
Caring for your child at Crystal Run Healthcare
The pediatricians at Crystal Run Healthcare are here for you throughout this difficult time. Whether you have questions related to COVID-19 or want to discuss your child’s upcoming well visits and vaccines, the pediatricians at Crystal Run are available both in-office and through telehealth virtual video visits. Doctors covering more than 40 specialties are available through telehealth, many with same-day appointments. Visit the Crystal Run website to learn more and schedule an appointment using the video request form.
If you do need an in-person visit, we have made it as easy and safe as possible. We have implemented procedures to keep you safe in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
To learn more about Crystal Run Healthcare, visit crystalrunhealthcare.com and follow the practice on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.