AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Experts are warning that the drastic changes to our normal routines caused by the coronavirus outbreak have had a large impact on our mental health — and the mental health of our children. Experts at the Children’s Hospital Colorado Pediatric Mental Health Institute have put together a list of ways families can help kids cope with anxiety and stress that may come with these changes and healthy ways to manage more time spent at home:
- Talk to your kids about the coronavirus: It’s important to be open and honest with kids. Clarify information they bring to you, dispel myths and use the conversation as a learning opportunity to explain realistic ways your family can prevent the spread of the virus.
- Limit screen time: Spending more time being active and less time in front of a screen can boost your child’s mood (and yours). Avoiding a constant stream of COVID-19 news can also reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
- Connect: Be intentional about calling or video-calling, writing to, or sending videos to loved ones. Set up virtual playdates. Also remember that while it’s important for kids to remain connected, it’s important for the primary caregiver to connect with other parents, friends and loved ones to know they’re not alone as well.
- Show gratitude and humor by making it a priority: Dedicate time every day to engage in healthy coping behaviors as a family amid changing routines and increased stress. This can look like creating a gratitude jar, setting aside time to watch online entertainment, holding a dance party with your kids or writing funny letters to family members. Children learn how to manage stress by watching their parents and caregivers manage stress, and this is an opportunity for modeling practicing gratitude and humor.
- Maintain a routine:Children thrive on predictable routines and will look to the adults in their lives for reassurance and support as schedules change. Start each day with a nutritious breakfast and regular activities that reflect intentional actions for a new day, such as changing out of pajamas or making the bed. Routines should also include outside physical activity (while practicing safe social distancing) and maintaining a healthy, consistent sleep schedule.
“Connecting with your child, limiting screen time, and maintaining healthy routines are recommendations for children of all ages during periods of stress,” hospital officials stated.
They say it’s important to tailor these measures for teenagers.
“Teens rely on their friends and view contact with them as extremely important. As the world changes rapidly around them and high school seniors may be experiencing senses of loss with their final high school year dramatically changed, you can still help them cope with these changes by listening to their concerns with respect and including them in big family decision-making processes,” officials added.
Additional explanations and tips for speaking with teens, building healthy, normal daily routines at home, and connecting about emotional wellness during the new coronavirus are found on the Children’s Colorado mental health guide.
For even more tips and information, take a look at these coronavirus resources.