Marissa Bader wrote "Helping Children Manage Anxiety & Depression During Covid" for the blog on Lucie's List: A Survival Guide for New Parents and it focuses on all the things that children and families have been trying to handle during the past year or so. The harsh reality we faced in 2020 has unfortunately seeped into 2021 and it is affecting all children in ways that we could have never predicted. Children of all ages have experienced a plethora of change this past year. From remote learning, disturbances in the school year and their extracurricular activities, to the overwhelming fear of the virus entering their own home, kids are bound to feel a great deal of stress. Kids are very resilient and they are capable of adapting, but that does not mean that they are immune to the challenges that surround them, in fact, they see, hear, and feel more than you probably realize. It is important, now more than ever, as parents, to be a little more cognizant to the feelings of isolation, hopelessness, sadness, panic, or distress that your children may be experiencing. The upside to all this confusion and change, is that there are things that you can do for both yourself and your children to prevent long-lasting anxiety, depression, or overarching negative feelings due to the pandemic. Start by trying to recognize the signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression in your child. For younger children, like toddlers, if you notice them being more aggressive than usual, being more difficult to console, changes in their behavioral patterns, or having bathroom accidents, for those that are potty-training, then this may be an indication that you need to step in. For school-aged children, they may display changes like, excessive worrying, isolation in their rooms, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities. trouble sleeping, changes in appetite or tummy aches, loss of interest in schoolwork, and changes in their social behavior. According to the Child Mind Institute, "if any of these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, they definitely need to be addressed." Clinical psychologist Dr. Mark Reinecke, Ph. D. along with the Child Mind Institute advise: "If you see them, take note. If they last, take action." The first thing you should do is check in with yourself, if your child is struggling, there is a pretty good chance that you are too. You should also feel reassured by the fact that your child is not ruined. An article in USA Today explains that "...unless a child is experiencing toxic stress, which is defined as severe in its strength and chronic in its duration and happens without a buffering relationship, then they will probably recover well and may even build resiliency that will serve them in the long run." Specifically, you can support your child by doing things like maintaining household consistency with routines and familiarity and possibly creating a safe space and setting a time for your child to check in with you at home. Do your best to be a sounding board for your child by listening, validating and being empathetic to their emotions and what they are going through. Encourage your child to stay physically active and have fun; going outside for just a few minutes and throwing or kicking a ball with them or jumping on the trampoline will help get them moving and hopefully improve their mood. As a family, encourage each other to practice mindfulness and adopt attitudes of gratitude. You can do his by teaching your child how to stop and take a breath when they are feeling overwhelmed and keep them in the moment to learn how to tolerate their new feelings. Teach your child to focus on what they are grateful for at the end of each day instead of what they are unhappy about by doing a family exercise that will hopefully serve to improve everyone's mood and overall health and well-being. Worry is another hurdle that you will need to jump as a parent. It is important that you teach your child how to understand how worrying works by having them identify the "why." Once they understand why they are worrying, you can teach them to name those emotions so they are then able to externalize those feelings of worry and depression. By doing this, you will be teaching them to challenge those negative thoughts and eventually, destroy them. As challenging as it is, this is such an important time for you, as a parent, to be a good role model for your child. Children are sponges and they look to adults for guidance, so be aware of the ways in which you are discussing your stress and the feelings that you may have about the way things are right now. Also, if you feel as if you need more help, do not be afraid to reach out to your child's pediatrician or find a therapist for your child to help them and give them a space to freely express without feeling as if they have to be strong for you. This is a scary, emotional, and overwhelming time that we are experiencing right now, so take care of yourselves too. Remember that this is all temporary and it will pass, do your best to get you and your family through it with only minor scratches.
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