childrensmentalhealth Archives | Play It Forward Therapy
5 Tips To Help Kids Cope With Corona Virus Related Stress

5 Tips To Help Kids Cope With Corona Virus Related Stress

Are your kids having trouble coping with the current Corona Virus situation?

If the answer, is yes, you’re not alone.  No matter where you are in the world, kids of all ages are being affected by so many changes in their normal routines and this brings up lots of questions such as…

  • Why do I have to wash my hands?
  • Why are people wearing masks?
  • Why can’t I have a play date?
  • When can we go to see grandma and grandpa?
  • Why can’t I go back to school?
  • What is social distancing?

Regardless of how old your children are, they can sense the changes in their routines, but may not understand the reasons why.

The current pandemic situation can be a tough conversation topic to tackle with your kids.  All of the changes in a  their day to day routines, plus environmental stress, can understandably affect the emotional dynamic at home.

So, how are your kids coping with all of these changes?  How are you coping?

Tip #1: How to talk to your child about Corona Virus

When it comes to your child’s emotional being, you may notice that an undercurrent of stress may be come out in various ways such as an increase in challenging behaviors, moodiness, anxiety, excessive clinginess, sadness, sleeping problems and confusion.

No one has every really experienced a situation like this, and sometimes it’s hard to know how to talk to kids about the Corona Virus.   When talking with them about the pandemic, be aware of what you share and how much you share.  Also, avoid letting your child read everything online, as it can be overwhelming for adults and even more confusing and distressing for kids. The FREE video book listed below is a wonderful tool to address the situation at an appropriate level for young children.  Check out the resources at the end of the article.

Tip #2:  Emotion Coaching ?

Often times kids cannot verbalize how they’re feeling.  You can help them by being an “interpreter” and emotion “coach” by helping them label their emotions.  For example, when your child is upset, you can say, “It looks like you’re feeling sad… or mad… or frustrated.”   Your child will eventually learn how to better express how they’re feeling with words when feeling upset. The ability to identify your own feelings is the first step in knowing how to handle big emotions in a healthy way.

Give your kids the time and space they need to process.  People process emotions differently.  Some people like to talk it out, while others are quieter and keep their thoughts inside.  There’s no right or wrong way, so if you’re a talker and your child is not, then recognize these differences. If your child isn’t ready to talk, then wait for a time when they’re feeling calmer to gently check in with them.

The next step is finding ways that help your child calm down and that serve as a positive outlet for handling stress.  Many pediatric occupational therapists along with other mental health professionals can collaborate with you to find the solutions that best match your child’s needs, temperament and sensory preferences to achieve a calm body and a calm mind.

Tip $3:  Get Moving to get Talking

Have you ever asked your child, “What’s wrong?” and received an answer such as ,”I don’t know.” or “nothing” or even worse, outright ignoring or telling you to go away.   Often as parents, we sense something is wrong or bothering our child, however not sure what it is.  As a matter of fact, sometimes kids don’t even know what’s bothering them, they just can tell they feel sad or unsettled.

One of the best ways to inspire conversation is spending time together doing an activity or moving while talking such as going for a walk together.  When you spend quality time with your child, you’re already supporting their social-emotional needs and mental health as well!  This is a great first start that will often lead to more insightful conversations further down the road.

Tip #4:  How to support your child’s emotional well-being ?

Our mental frame of mind and emotional well-being significantly impacts our relationships and our ability to function in every day life.  Did you know that the profession of occupational therapy has deep roots in mental health?  As a matter of fact, psychology and mental health are foundational cornerstones of the profession.

During the pandemic, one way we could support the families in our community was by offering occupational therapy sessions with a focus on promoting positive mental health.  Our treatment strategies and coaching sessions often include lessons on emotional awareness, teaching self-regulations skills,  social stories and helping kids to understand what they currently have available to them when they’re feeling upset or distressed.  It’s never too early to teach healthy coping methods, which is an essential skill to start cultivating now.  We all want our kids to grow up into healthy, happy and well balanced adults some day.

Tip #5:  Lead By Example, Little Eyes are Watching!

One of the best ways to care of your child’s emotional health, is to start with yourself.  If you’re feeling extremely stressed, overwhelmed or negative it affects everyone.  One person can set the tone and the emotional environment in the household.  That being said, your feelings are natural and everyone goes through these emotions. So don’t beat yourself about it.

But if you’re feeling really stuck, don’t hesitate to take time to care for yourself.  Take a minute to write down 3-5 things that you could do to feel better, lift your spirits or having something to look forward too.  It could be as simple as calling a friend, going for a walk outside, doing yoga, getting that extra whip creme on your coffee!  Take a few minutes to go through the Mindfulness Video listed below, together as a family. 

My mother always said, “Count your blessings”.  It’s true, that if you think of or write down 5-10 things you’re thankful for, it can help shift your mindset and bring you into a more positive perspective. You’re in a position of constantly giving, but now’s the time to take an inventory of your own emotional needs as well.  Ask yourself, “What do I need to reset?”

The Brain Body Connection

It’s never too early to teach your child ways to calm his or her body, which in turn has a calming effect on the mind.  By taking deep breaths, practicing mental imagery and releasing stress through physical activity, you are influencing your autonomic nervous system which is responsible for your body’s fight, flight or freeze mechanism in response to stress. 

Your child can  learn how taking care of his or her body can have a calming input on the mind.  Take advantage of this time in quarantine to go through mindfulness videos, yoga and exercising together to reap the benefits of self-regulation.  The mindfulness video listed at the end is one of my favorites, or find some great mindfulness and meditation apps for your phone.

Skills for Life

As a pediatric occupational therapist, I believe it’s essential to partner with parents to strengthen their child’s emotional intelligence, to learn strategies for self-regulation and teach healthy coping methods.   These are valuable skills that will serve your child well for the rest of his or her life!

… The truth is, it’s often during life’s most difficult times, that we have the best opportunity to nurture and cultivate our children’s emotional health…

Even though it can be really tough at times, your hard work, unconditional love and patience will pay off.  I promise you!

I have confidence that you can set your child up for success by equipping them with important skills that will help support their emotional well-being and mental health for a life time.

Just remember, that this too shall pass… we’re all in this together as we strive to support one another and our children with patience, kindness, love and grace.

Give your kid a hug… And, don’t forget to give yourself a hug too! ?

5 Tips For Talking With Kids About COVID-19

A Social Distancing Story

This Melting Mindfulness video will help you and your child “practice melting away that icky frozen feeling you have when you get scared, frustrated or angry.”

For more helpful resources to support you during this time, check out The Best Online Educational Resources and Laughter Is The Best Medicine

Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month

Now is the time to support, encourage and provide resources for children who are struggling with depression, anxiety or other mental health problems.  Raising awareness about mental health in children is the first step in being able to provide help and hope for kids and families who are facing these challenges.  As parents, teachers and caregivers we can make a difference by intervening early to positively impact a child’s social and emotional well being.

Read on to learn more about what to look out for when it comes anxiety, depression and behavioral problems in children.  You’ll find helpful Fact Sheets about some of the most common challenges.

Did you know that for children aged 3-17 years old…

  • 4% have a diagnosed BEHAVIOR PROBLEM
  • 1% have diagnosed ANXIETY and
  • 2% have diagnosed DEPRESSION

According to the CDC…

  • 4% of children (ages 2-17 ) have received a diagnosis for ADHD 1
  • About 1 in 59 children has been identified with AUTISM.1
  • Half of all psychiatric illness occurs before the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 24

 

In the United States, 1 out of every 6 children, between the ages of 2-8 years,

has a mental, behavioral or developmental disorder.

There are approximately 11 million children in the U.S. that are facing mental health challenges.  However, this statistic is based upon children who have already been given a diagnosis.  It does NOT include those children who have yet to be identified.  These kids are likely not receiving support for problems related to anxiety, depression or behavioral challenges.

Read on to increase your Mental Health Awareness!  It could be the first step toward making a positive difference in a child’s life and well-being.

Q.  What are the most common mental health problems for children & teens?

A.  The most common psychiatric disorders in childhood are anxiety, ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), depression and bipolar and eating disorders.2    It is not uncommon for some of these conditions to occur together such as depression and anxiety along with behavior problems.1

When it comes to the mental health of our kids, the statistics on children diagnosed with mental  disorders  is significant.  Yet, how many more children are experiencing or struggling with mental health problems that do not have a formal diagnosis?

Two-thirds of teens who experience symptoms of depression do not seek help, and therefore do not get identified.

The above statistic shows why Mental Health Awareness Month is so important. As parents and practitioners, we need to pay special attention to our children’s mental well-being.   It is essential that we support the youth of our next generation.  While it is fine to focus on a child’s academic success, it is equally important to pay attention to and nurture your child’s mental and psychological well-being.

Often times, that involves us taking closer look in the mirror and examining our own behaviors, issues and parenting techniques.  This takes courage to become more self-aware as a parent .  It also takes a certain level of parenting perceptiveness to be able to identify and take action if you have concern’s about your child’s social or emotional health.

Q.  What are the signs of childhood mental disorder?

A:  Serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave or handle their emotions.  These changes cause stress and problems getting through the day or participating in daily activities.

OTs frequently coordinate care with the child’s pediatrician along with other mental health practitioners to support a child’s overall psychological well-being and participation in daily activities.  Occupational therapy may be one of the treatments working alongside other mental health experts who provide  cognitive behavior therapy (CBT),  parent training, behavioral therapy (ABA) and/or medication.

How can occupational therapy help my child?

A.  Occupational therapists work with children and youth helping to provide positive behavioral supports and social emotional strategies for children with or without an identified mental health problem.  The goal is to teach kids Social and Emotional Learning Strategies.  SEL strategies will help kids learn critical life skills for developing positive relationships, behaving ethically, and handling challenging situations more effectively.

Often times, I see how children and their families discover that counseling services from a mental health expert can give them additional tools to help with problem behaviors.

For me, growing up with a psychiatrist father, the topic of mental health issues was a part of my childhood, from visiting my dad at his psychiatry private practice to the conversations we had around the dinner table.  Because of this, I’ve always had a keen awareness and appreciation for occupational therapy’s role in mental health promotion, prevention and intervention.

Mental Health Fact Sheets

To learn more about the signs, symptoms and how these disorders may impact a child’s ability to reach their potential, check out these links from the American Occupational Therapy Association. 

Keep in mind that these resources are a starting point to help you learn more about anxiety, depression and ADHD and how they can affect your child’s ability to engage in activities at home, school and other social situations.  Feel free to share them with your child’s doctor or health care provider to start a discussion on how to best help your child.

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