A brief note from the editor. In 2014, I had the pleasure of meeting Brandy Browne back in the States when I was a teacher at a local dance studio. Brandy’s daughter, Grace, was in my class and I’ve followed her story on social media ever since – always shocked at her amazing ability to balance being a wife, mom to three kids, elementary school teacher, and grad student herself all at the same time!
As we continue to grow our online learning platform and children’s resource here at The Lily-Jo Project, I couldn’t think of a better person to hop on our ‘blog squad’ and write key articles to help families navigate their mental health. We hope you enjoy her first article for us, all about strategies for helping children ease the mental burden of Covid-19.
Shelby, Blog Editor at The Lily-Jo Project
(Brandy’s article below)
In the United States, the Center for Disease Control reported a significant increase in the number of emergency department visits for mental health issues in children aged 5-11 and 12-17 during 2020 (CDC, 2020).
“Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health-related visits for children aged 5–11 and 12–17 years increased approximately 24%. and 31%, respectively,” reports the CDC.
This is likely due to increased stress during the pandemic (fear of becoming ill or possibly losing a loved one to COVID, social isolation, etc.) and lack of access to mental health resources, as many of these children are served in schools or agencies that have limited availability during the pandemic.
So, how do we ease the natural fears and worries our children may be dealing with? Implementing a few key strategies can go a long way in building strong, resilient children.
Easing Natural Worries and Helping Our Children be Resilient: 5 Key Strategies
Do not make false promises to your children.
It is unwise to promise your child that no one around him or her will become ill. There is simply no way to guarantee that. Though it is tempting to simply make the quick promise to ease the anxiety your child is wrestling with, it can cause mistrust if a loved one does become ill or worse, passes due to COVID. Instead, have an open conversation where you reassure your child that he or she is loved and that you will be there to help him or her through whatever could happen.
Practice mindfulness as a family.
Mindfulness is a great strategy to move from the “what ifs” to the “here and now.” To do this, simply have your child tune in to his or her five senses. What can he see? Hear? Touch? Smell? Taste? By focusing on his or her environment in the present moment, your child will become grounded and able to regulate emotions more effectively.
Keep a gratitude journal.
Keep a gratitude journal or even just have regular conversations about what family members are grateful for. In this pandemic, it is easy to focus on the negative and the way that COVID has shaken our routines. Focusing on positive aspects of the situation, such as increased family time, time to learn new skills, etc. can help keep worries at bay.
Help your child find an outlet.
It sounds simple, but find an outlet for your child. If your child is athletic, be intentional about getting outside for a run, walk, or game of basketball. If your child is artistic, encourage him or her to paint or draw or create daily. Children communicate primarily through play. How your child plays can reveal much information about what is troubling him or her.
Create a routine that works for your family.
Being intentional about tending to your child’s mental health now will enable them to get through the pandemic with fewer long term mental health issues. It is an investment worth making to increase your child’s resiliency and ability to regulate his or her emotions, a skill and characteristic that he or she will need throughout life.
CDC. (2020). Mental health related emergency department visits among children aged <18 years during the COVID 19 pandemic- United States, January 1-October 17, 2020.
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is an early childhood educator in the United States, as well as a family coach and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com), her family coaching service aimed at helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty. Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of fifteen years, and together they share three children, aged ten, seven, and five. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, and distance running.
Lack of structure actually increases anxiety rather than decreasing it. Knowing what to expect can give your child peace of mind. Our days do not look exactly like they did pre-COVID, but we still have a structure and routine we follow. Breakfast still occurs at a certain hour, as do lunch and dinner. My children know that each of them have a block during the day to work on their assignments with me around my group schedule. We try to complete our school work by 3:00 P.M. so that the later afternoon and evening can be spent in play and conversation together.