Supporting Your Kid’s Mental Health, In and Out of COVID

Childhood isn’t just fun and games, it is a crucial time of learning and developing into an adult, and part of this development involves taking care of their mental health. Your child experiences many external and internal factors that can affect their growth throughout their childhood and young adulthood. Certain factors can have lifelong implications on things like development and the brain. Children can start to show signs of conditions like anxiety disorders, ADHA, depression, PTSD, autism, and more at a young age. These conditions can be harder to diagnose in children. Sometimes these diagnoses are inherited, and others can develop, but either way, treatment is possible. The emotional health of young children is directly tied to their caregivers and families. Reducing things affecting children in negative ways requires addressing stresses on their families.

Kids and COVID-19

March 2020, our world changed, and just about everyone’s life was disrupted. This disruption has been especially hard on children because their day-to-day life changed, and suddenly, they were trapped at home and learning/interacting with the world in a whole new way. It also put extra pressure on parents who suddenly found themselves without childcare and sometimes work. Even with schools to regular schedules in the fall to in-, a global pandemic is can be hard to children to understand.  

Some of the challenges children and young adults have been facing are:

Childhood is hard enough. Here are some ways you can set your child up for success as things continue to develop in the next year.

  • Provide positive distractions.
    • Positive distractions are things like homework, watching favorite movies, and reading. Help your kid find something they like to do and direct them to those things.
    • Have them help out in the community- whether it be going through their clothes together and picking out items to donate, offering to mow the neighbor’s lawn, or writing cute notes for family members, giving back a great value to learn. It can also make them feel better about themselves.
  • Regulate screen/Internet time.
    • With more time on their hands from staying at home, many kids have found themselves with even more screen time. It’s essential to regulate this. For younger kids, you can control time, and for teenagers, it can be good to sit down and discuss why and how you can healthily approach things. One great way to enforce limited screen time is to limit your own as well. Set aside family reading/story times or times for play together. Even beyond COVID, you should be limiting this access.
  • Provide structure.
    • If your kids are old enough, have them help you create a schedule. Use tools like sticky notes, dry erase boards, and calendars to make things easy to remember to hold yourself and kid(s) accountable.
  • Communication, communication, communication.
    • Talk about it (COVID, life, stresses) and check in with your kid. It’s important to have an honest dialogue and for your kids to feel like they can talk to you. Give them that opportunity and really listen. Of course, sometimes it can be hard to get them to open up, but as long as you have trust both ways, generally they are more willing. Check out this age-by-age guide on how to help your child open up to you for tips and insights.
  • Help them sort through things they find on the Internet.
    • There is a lot of fake information out there, and you want to make sure your child is getting accurate information. You can teach them how to cite their sources and help them filter through the noise. Navigating the Internet can be dangerous for kids who don’t know about safety and sifting through the noise. Learn about how you can teach your child proper Internet surfing techniques!
  • Lastly, be a good role model.
    • Your kid often mirrors what you do and picks up your mannerisms, beliefs, and vocabulary. Your kids will likely notice when you aren’t taking care of yourself or struggling. It’s not to say that you can’t do those things, but you should try to be your best self. Check out this list of ways to be a good role model, like being dependable, loyal, attentive, and more!

Your children will always need support, even when COVID-19 has long passed. Here are some general tips to help them grow up and navigate their mental health.

General Mental Health Tips:

  • Let your kid be sad/grieve.
    • Kids can get lost in their feelings too. Reassure them that what they’re feeling is normal and ask how you can help them. Maybe eat some ice cream together or put on a favorite film. Either way, letting them feel, discussing why they feel how they feel, and helping them feel supported and loved will help them continue to come to you when they need you. Just because they are children doesn’t mean their feelings aren’t valid.
  • Be honest with them.
    • If your child is younger, you may want to simplify things, but being honest can help you build trust and love. Being honest can also help your child learn that that is the right course of action and to be truthful with you in the future. You may feel the need to shelter them, but you don’t want them learning from someone else, and even if you sugar-coat a little, it should come from you.
  • Pay attention and learn to recognize when things aren’t right.
    • Knowing your kid’s body language, moods, and how they express themselves is important to recognizing when they need what. Sometimes they won’t talk to you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t notice things and check-in. Here are signs to keep an eye out for:
      • Difficulty controlling emotions
      • Avoidance of normal activities
      • Withdrawing from relationships with friends and family
      • Difficulty keeping up with responsibilities
      • Erratic behavior or outbursts of anger
      • Continuous sad mood
      • Changes in eating or weight loss
  • Give them help if they need it.
    • Whether it’s a hug, time alone, or a nudge in the right direction, your kid will need your help sometimes. Be willing to listen and give support!
  • Teach them ways to manage stress.
    • Let’s face it; your child will be stressed and face difficult circumstances at points in their life. What you can do is give them the proper tools to cope and be successful through these times. Try these stress management techniques.
  • Make time for play and keep them moving!
    • Both play and movement are important to the development of any child. Kids need time to be creative, use their imaginations, and focus on fun things. This relieves stress and allows them to have an outlet. Similarly, exercise can help them lift their moods and release excess energy. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children over six get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Time outside is especially effective!
  • Talk to a professional.
    • Are you still feeling lost? There is nothing wrong with getting external help. If you observe signs of your kid struggling with mental health, you should contact their pediatrician. They can do an evaluation and possibly recommend a specialist and give you more tips to providing the support your kid needs.

Friday Resources:

Friday Health Plans is exceptionally proud to offer robust mental health benefits options to our members. Be sure to take advantage of the following for your child or even yourself.

Most Friday plans offer unlimited $0 mental health counseling. Use our mental health resources page to find a therapist near you or connect with your child’s primary doctor/pediatrician for evaluation.

Many Friday plans offer thousands of $0 generic prescriptions, so be sure to see what’s covered in your Friday health plan

Be sure to double-check your coverage on your member portal. At Friday, we value your mental health, and we’re here to make the journey a little easier. Together, we can help you support your child the best we can!

Have any questions or concerns? Contact our Care Crew for help! We are here for you.

Categories:

Wellness, Mental Health
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