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Helping your kids with mental health during the pandemic

Parents should consider the impact of their children's itinerary, sleep patterns, eating habits, hygiene, and online behaviours and how they looked pre-pandemic

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Parenting at any time is not easy, more so during the pandemic. You want to protect your child from the Covid 19 and to be mentally healthy. You want to prevent further deterioration in your child’s functioning if they’re receiving help from mental health services.

You’re right to be worried about your children’s mental health. You see, your sunny-natured ten-year-old is sullen at home and doesn’t like going to school as they did before the lockdown. Your 16-year-old is staying in their room and only comes out for meals. 

The pandemic has wreaked havoc. Our young who look at peers for identity formation are at greater risk, says psychologist Erik Erikson, a critical stage for their psychosocial development. On a rudimentary level, the school offers various opportunities for overall growth in which peer interaction plays a significant role. 

Right now, with all these losses, our youth are grieving for their pre-pandemic lives as we are. However, it’s harder for the young to cope with losing their school routine and sports as they do not have a fully developed frontal cortex, the part of the brain for rational decision making.

 The limbic brain or the primitive part controls adolescents’ reaction to loss or stress, making them prone to impulsivity and aggressive behaviours.

Additionally, being sad or feeling low is not cool for the youth, especially in front of their peers. A child who inflicts minor self-harm is not accepted by many. 

As a parent, how about looking at your teen’s daily itinerary: sleep patterns, eating habits, hygiene, online behaviours while keeping the pandemic in mind. 

At the same time, look at your functioning and see any deficits compared to pre-pandemic. 

Once you have a starting point, you can note down when you or your youngster are busy with household chores, laughing together or online with friends. Focusing on joyful moments will reduce catastrophic thinking patterns, a cognitive distortion, where all good things happening in your life are minimized.

Next, you can add activities that your teen enjoys, for example, bake a cake together. If the baking sessions go according to plan, you and your child can follow up with a friend on zoom for a recipe exchange. 

Social isolation can bring feelings of abandonment in the young, leading to feelings of despair and helplessness.

Your teen may start taking initiatives like going on zoom calls with family; if already doing so to initiate these calls themselves. 

Feeling helpless or fearful creates cognitive dissonance as adolescents are into risk-taking behaviours; car insurance premiums are higher for this age group for this reason. 

By creating moments of joy, listening to a podcast together ( even if you don’t have any interest in the speakers), you can monitor your teen’s emotional health. It can be to see if they’re actively involved in the discussion or commenting on the speakers; you may even find listening to the podcast enjoyable.

Additionally, this will help with your parenting without coming across as over-parenting. Your child will feel less overwhelmed; have some self-esteem boost too in their decision making.

It’s going to be one day at a time; however, by keeping an upbeat attitude, you can gradually and steadily help your child normalize their feelings about themselves and their immediate world. You’ll have a plan to face setbacks in your child’s mental health to take quick preventative measures. 

Hopefully, you and your family will emerge more robust to face the unknown as that’s what life is for all.

This article was published in the Telegraph-Journal.

The picture is from Mind Matters A.S. Consulting; 

https://www.facebook.com/mindmattersasconsulting//

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes and should not substitute for psychotherapy with a qualified professional.

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