Covid-19, lockdown, and parenting: How to address mental health on children?
In recent years, most parents have thought about mental health issues as ‘a phase’ or just ‘a stage’ that every child or adolescent has to go through. But this pandemic has shed light that ‘the phase’ is not just what they have to go through as part of growing up, but it is a concern that, left untackled, will give unpleasant outcomes that a child will carry throughout their lives.
What is mental health?
As defined by WHO, mental health is the foundation of our mental and psychological well-being. This includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being; hence having a poor one will highly affect how we think, feel, and act. It is crucial in determining how we handle stress, relate to others, and make decisions. And, it is vital at every stage of life: from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Parenting amid the pandemic
Yes, parenting is both rewarding and challenging — that is a fact. We have to find a balance between disciplining and engaging our children to be more open and connected to us. Being in this pandemic and series of lockdowns for almost two years now has brought us to unexpected challenges and, of course — stress. But then, just like adults, children can develop the same mental health conditions. However, these symptoms may be different. As parents, we need to know what to watch for, when to seek help and how to help our kids.
‘With lockdowns and the pandemic-related movement restrictions, it has been a long year for us, but especially for children.’ said in one of the tweets of UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore.
Poor mental health may lead from acute to deteriorating disorders and some of which are ADHD, anxiety, depression, or mood disorders. Probably, you have observed how your child behaved during the lockdown and school closures. Due to these disruptions, children and adolescents have increased screen time, decreased physical activity, irregular sleep patterns, and difficulties due to peer isolation. Unattended, these may lead to severe and devastating effects on their development.
What are the warning signs?
So, what signs do we have to look out for? At times, it may be awkward to ask our children, or they may not give you the right answers. Through observations, you have to start asking yourself these questions:
- Is my child experiencing persistent sadness for two or more weeks?
- Is my child withdrawing from social interactions like those of small chats?
- Is my child hurting herself/himself or talking about hurting someone else?
- Is my child talking about death or suicide or posting similar things on social media?
- Is my child having sudden outbursts or extreme irritability?
If your answer is yes on most of these questions, then it is time for you to have them start talking about their feelings. But you have to remember, just because you notice one or more of these changes does not mean your child has a mental health problem.
How can you promote good mental health?
As parents, you play an essential role in your child’s mental health:
- Help and build strong, caring relationships by spending some time together or involving them in activities with some family members or friends.
- Help them develop their self-esteem by showing lots of love and acceptance. Praise them when they do well or even help them set realistic goals.
- Listen, and respect their feelings. Keep your communication open and encourage them to talk about their feelings. Let them be open with the idea: ‘It’s ok not to be ok.’
- Create a safe, positive home environment by being aware of their social media usage and interactions, especially online games. More so, be careful about discussing serious family issues or even arguing with your husband or wife in front of them.
- Help your child solve problems. Teach them how to relax when they get upset by doing mindful breathing exercises, calming them down, or even go for a walk. Give them the opportunity to deal with their crises and talk about possible solutions but avoid taking over.
Where to go for help?
There are several ways to help your child achieve positive mental health. Sharing your concerns to one of your trusted friends, family member, or even your doctor are some of them. You can talk to your child’s physician and discuss some of these noticeable changes, especially when these are interfering with the child’s development and ability to function.
We are here to help!
As a tutoring business, we are not only here to deal with the academic skills of your child but we are also after their welfare. We can provide a safe environment where children can learn, socialize and participate actively without hesitation. All our staff, including admin staff and teachers are always here to listen and assist the parents in supporting not only the education of their child but also their mental health.
Please note that if your child or teen talks about suicide or harming themselves, call your doctor or contact your local mental health crisis line right away.
Local mental health crisis lines: