Inside: Learn 11 Ways to Protect your Child’s Mental Health during the Pandemic/quarantine and why your child’s emotional health matters just as much as academics.
Everywhere you look right now, there’s a new educational app or resource focusing on how to teach kids academics at home.
As a mom now working out of my kitchen, trying to keep three children happy and somewhat cognitively stimulated, I’m grateful for each of these, as the role of teaching my own children academics was one I was not prepared for.
Aside from academics, there’s something else getting much less attention, but we should feel just as concerned about it.
My ability to maintain a sense of emotional safety and security for my kids at home while their routines and lives are in many cases being turned completed upside down.
After all, I don’t remember another time (in my lifetime at least) where the collective stressors of the world were stacked higher than they are now, and there’s no doubt this energy of fear and uncertainty travels through the cracks of our home.
I want to protect their emotional well-being now when we’re hunkered down at home, as well as when the Pandemic passes and it’s time for them to return to life as they know it.
I know that if my 10-year-old is having anxious thoughts, she won’t have the motivation or focus to get through 90 minutes of schoolwork…and that if my sensitive 5-year-old absorbs the words and energy around him he’ll start reporting “I’m hungry” about every 20 minutes, or “my stomach hurts” (both telltale signs of anxiety).
The preventative approach with your child’s mental health is always better
Without typical rhythms and structures of daily routines tethering them to a sense of predictability and safety, your child will greatly benefit from other measures to help keep their stress level low and to prevent any anxiety from developing.
Here are 11 ways to support your child’s emotional health right now
Take care of your own emotions
While quarantined at home, Your tone, energy, and overall emotional presence will serve as your child’s emotional guidepost.
How can you provide calm and confident reassurance to your child? Be honest with the many emotions you’re feeling right now and take the necessary steps to work through them and take care of yourself physically and emotionally.
My 8-year-old has broken down in tears more times then I can count in recent days…when she gets stuck trying to sign in to an electronic device or is unable to find her toothbrush. Just as you will, your child is going to have heightened emotions in the days and weeks to come.
While I know you’d love your child to approach you and calmly communicate everything that’s going through their little mind, their emotions will more often than not, come out in the form of arguments, anger, or tears.
It will be tempting to respond to the behavior you see on the surface, “There’s no need to cry about this!”.
You’ll have much better luck if you assume your child’s seemingly over-sized reaction has more to do with pent up emotions coming up for air than it does the topic at hand. Unconditional comfort and support over judgment and criticism is the answer.
Invite emotions in
A great way to keep emotions from building up on the surface is to do regular ‘check-ins’ with your child. Taking a moment to ask them how they’re doing with all the changes happening right now, will go far to create a safe place for bringing up worries or concerns (look for the free printable for this at the end of the post).
Provide visuals to help them identify how they’re feeling( This feelings chart and flashcards work perfectly for kids ages 3-9).
Normalizing the very healthy and typical swirling of emotion within your child will help to decrease their stress, and help them learn how to accept and work through their emotions.
Keep them moving
As stress hormones build up in their little body, your child needs consistent avenues to ‘blow off steam’.
Physical activity gives your child calming and regulating sensory input which helps to disengage the emotional area of their brain (where stress and anxiety live) and strengthens the part of the brain responsible for focus, self-control and decision making (the pre-frontal cortex).
Monitor their media
Evidence shows that exposure to news programming and other scary screentime can cause children to experience fear and anxiety. When children are exposed to violent or aggressive content, their brains often process it in the same way as if it were actually happening to them.
If children are exposed to mature content in the news that their maturing brain can’t yet process, it will leave them feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
Related>> 10 Anxiety Symptoms in Children Most Parents Miss
Get them outdoors
We’re stuck at home but that doesn’t mean we’re stuck inside. The benefits of nature for kids are incredible and spending time outside is one of the most powerful coping strategies you’ll need to ensure your child has access to in upcoming weeks.
Time spent in nature has been shown in studies to boost our mood and ability for self-regulation, or our ability to manage incoming stress. Enough said.
Always do this more than you talk
Listening to your child’s thoughts and concerns both large and small is an enormous way to communicate to them that they’re seen and valued as individuals.
Just as you perceive a great loss of control during this time of quarantine, your child does too. Giving them more opportunities for control and leadership will go a long way to help meet their need for autonomy.
Only share age-appropriate facts and information
It’s easy to forget that your child’s brain is underdeveloped and has very different processing abilities than yours. Aim for balancing important facts and giving them the why behind some of the changes they’re experiencing with leaving out any information that may overwhelm your child or cause them anxiety.
A great way to start a discussion about overwhelming and scary things is to ask open-ended questions such as,
“Do you have any questions about why we’re staying home?” or “What have you heard about_______ already?”
Here’s a great guide on what to say to your child about Coronavirus based on their age.
Provide a sense of safety at home
Hands down the most powerful thing you can do to provide your child with an underlying sense of safety and calm is to connect with them each day.
True connection means really seeing your child, taking the time to meet them on their level and enter in their world. This might look like letting your child pick a board game to play, sitting down on the floor with them and just listening, or cuddling in bed at night with absolutely no agenda.
Leave plenty of time to play
Not only does your child release stress through play, but play is also the magical conduit to growth and development in many areas relating to your child’s social and emotional health including communication skills (listening skills), emotional intelligence (how to manage emotions in healthy ways), confidence (how to self-direct and persevere) and self-control (inhibiting impulses for the greater good).
Time for free play is just as important to your child as the time to do a math worksheet or read.
Help them see the bigger picture
Even though your family may be cut off from the outside world in many ways, you can find ways to promote socialization and a sense of interconnectedness right in your living room.
Taking the time to call a great grandparent or make a card for a neighbor models kindness to those in need. Not only do acts of kindness correlate to increased feelings of happiness and contentment, but they also produce emotional ‘powerhouse’ qualities such as empathy and compassion with counter feelings of depression and anxiety.
Please don’t forget about your child’s mental health during the Coronavirus pandemic.
During this time of uncertainly your child’s emotional well-being hangs in the balance. The emotional tone you set at home and the small daily steps you take to help provide them safety and comfort will serve as enormous protective factors (conditions that mitigate risk and increase health and well-being) for your child both now during the quarantine and when the steady rhythms and routines of daily life resume once again.
P.S. Want an awesome visual tool to help you keep close tabs on your child’s mental and emotional health?
Grab your free printable daily check-in sheet!
This post comes with a free printable daily check-in worksheet! An easy way to give your child the chance to communicate how they’re feeling and thinking to keep their emotional health as a priority.
Here’s a peek at it…
- Download the daily check-in worksheet. You’ll get the printable, plus join 12,000+ parents who receive my weekly insights, tips, and strategies on how to raise emotionally healthy kids who will change the world, every week!
- Place it on your refrigerator or in a centralized area (Reuse with dry-erase markers by placing in a plastic sheet protector pouch, or laminating:)
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