The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone around the world. With everything being so hectic, sometimes it is easy to forget that young children can be affected as well. Being cooped up at home, a lack of socialization, and a disruption in routine can negatively impact their mental health.
About one in six children suffer from mental health disorders and they are usually a result of the things happening around them. Making sure their environment and lifestyle is appropriate can lower the risk of these problems. Watching out for relevant symptoms and taking action can help to solve the problem before it gets worse.
Talk About It
If you haven’t already done so, find time to have a conversation about COVID-19 with your child. Using language suited to their age and maturity, explain the current situation and the reasons behind why certain things have to be done differently now.
For younger children, the drastic change in lifestyle can be confusing. Teaching them that staying at home, for example, can help protect them from a dangerous virus outside, can give them a sense of control rather than just having to follow a meaningless rule.
On the other hand, over-focusing on the severity of the situation can also be scary and gloomy for many children, especially those who are more emotionally sensitive. Keep an eye out for any signs of distress or anxiety, and encourage open conversations. Limiting the exposure to content related to the pandemic, either from the television, social media or other sources, can help alleviate anxiety both in children and adults. And if you’re seeking professional help, go for the best child psychologists near you to minimize disruption to your child’s daily routine.
Stick to a Schedule
Life for schooling children before the pandemic largely followed a rigid schedule. Maintaining routines that incorporate new lifestyle changes is important for mental health in both children and adults. A familiar routine can help children to feel safe and confident in their activities. For most children, their daily routine can simply be having designated timings for study, play, and sleep.
For children who are unable to return to school, check with their teachers to see if any lesson plans or assignments have been scheduled. For those who have their lessons online, make sure they have a comfortable set-up that is efficient for learning.
Play time is equally important in a developing child. Plan fun activities, or let them watch their favourite cartoon. Since outdoor physical activities are reduced, introducing regular exercise is also important. Try incorporating indoor workouts, or physical games that can train coordination into their play time.
Show More Attention
Spending the majority of their time at home might make some children feel like they are not receiving enough attention, since they are used to getting attention from so many different sources.
As busy parents, small, simple actions are enough to remind them that they are loved. Initiate conversations about things that they are interested in or something they recently mentioned to show that you’ve been listening.
Let them understand when you are working and need to concentrate so they know you’re not purposely ignoring them. Amidst all the work and household chores, try to section off at least 15 minutes everyday solely to interact with them without other distractions.
Don’t Skip Celebrations
Celebrations will feel different without big gatherings and spending a lot of time outside. Rather than skipping celebrations all together, spice up the holiday seasons with unique ideas instead of regular parties and traditions.
Try letting the little one bake their own birthday cake on their birthday. Write letters from Santa to make Christmas extra magical. Instead of trick or treating this Halloween, why not do a photoshoot in their cute outfits at home instead?
Make Use of Technology
Technology is a great tool to pass time at home, both for entertainment, socialising and education. If you’ve usually been super strict with screen time, consider relaxing the rules for this period.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) has a good guide on how much screen time each age group should be getting. Setting up rules, device restrictions and monitoring the content they view can keep them safe even with the increased usage.
Professional help is sometimes necessary for those who are going through or went through traumatic experiences, such as having family members suffering from COVID-19, parents going through a divorce, or facing difficulties in school.
Parents should seek these services for children who display symptoms of mental health problems like emotional outbursts and withdrawing from other people. There are plenty of mental health resources and services catered to children and their parents to help them through this period.
In conclusion, be understanding. This is a time where many children might feel frustrated and trapped. Remember that adults are not the only ones who are suffering. Be patient and show them that you are here to support and help.