Supporting Your Child's Mental Health During Covid
This is a tough time for everyone, challenging in many ways: some people have become unemployed, others are struggling with isolation, and too many of us are losing loved ones to Covid. I think it goes without saying that our young people are really hurting. Emergency rooms throughout the province are seeing a sharp increase in children dealing with mental health concerns and suicidal ideation.
There are real, tangible things we can do to help alleviate the real dangers to the mental health of our young people.
1) Speak positively and refrain from hopeless talk. I know that this is harder than it may appear on paper. Even if we think that our young loved ones cannot hear us, I believe they may always be listening. Young people are struggling to understand this pandemic and if we are hopeless, how can they have hope. I believe in talking about resilience and sharing our belief that our children will get through this. “This is hard but it isn’t forever. We will have learned a lot of lessons from this time once we get through it.”
2) Find ways of giving back. I strongly believe that one way to heal oneself is to try to help serve someone else. We should facilitate our young people to help others. For example, I had my students partner with St. Matthew’s House to provide letters to isolated seniors. This is also helping our young people realize that there are things you can do to make things better.
3) Participating in a challenge. Young people love a challenge, especially if they’re competing. You could do a book reading challenge each month and set a prize for a winner. You could have a steps challenge to encourage your child to get outside and walk. You don’t need a Fitbit either, there are really inexpensive step counters online. These challenges help break the monotony and help the child feel like they aren’t wasting time.
4) Recognizing mental health is health. If your child was sick to their stomach, you wouldn’t hesitate to let them take a day off from online school. You should use the same yard stick to determine if their mental health is impacting their learning. This is a grind and if your child needs a break mentally, I support taking it. Just be honest with the teacher and make sure the day is still structured and productive. I wouldn’t suggest letting them take the day off and just binge Netflix.
Above all else, the most important thing that I have written about countless times: consistency, predictability and visible schedules can make a real difference.