As we head back to school, Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare, offers tips and tools for managing your child’s stress.
Tip #1: Share information. The CDC is a great resource for learning how to talk to your child about COVID-19. It’s important to provide children with appropriate support sooner rather than later. Talk with your child, be emotionally supportive, and understand their worries could extend beyond back-to-school anxieties. Be proactive. Learn what steps you can take to help reduce stress in their lives and provide a strong support system for getting through possible challenges that may arise.
Tip #2: Help them feel secure. Going back to school may be daunting for children, especially after the stress and disruption of the pandemic. Be reassuring about their safety and validate their feelings by emphasizing that it’s OK to feel upset, scared, anxious, down, and even angry. You might also share how you manage your feelings to help them learn from you. Make sure your children know they can ask questions at any time. For adolescents, consider walking them through the use of self-care tools like the Sanvello app to help navigate difficult emotions.
Tip #3: Listen and watch. Parents, friends, teachers and family often are the first line of defense for a child struggling with their mental and emotional well-being yet unable to articulate their needs. Let them know you are there to listen and it’s safe to share how they’re feeling. Pay attention to more than just their words. It’s critical for parents to be aware of their children’s moods and uncharacteristic changes in behavior so they know when it’s time to seek expert support.
Tip #4: Help define boundaries and create regular routines. Consider limiting exposure to news coverage – including social media. Prioritize and establish a regular routine that provides children with structure when not in the classroom. This may help better manage children’s emotional well-being. For example, consider after-school activities, sports, or hobbies that interest your child. Top Tip: Take Action. Make sure to discuss your concerns with your pediatrician or family physician as soon as possible. Your doctor mayrecommend a plan of action or even a counselor who might help find ways to reduce any unhealthy stress and improve overall health.For more health and wellness information, visit UHC.com.
What to Watch for – And How to Help
Depression: A hallmark of the pandemic is increased stress, which may lead to a higher incidence of depression and maybe other behavioral illnesses.Some common signs of depression in children, according to the CDC, include feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable a lot of the time, having a hard time paying attention, low energy or fatigue, feeling worthless or useless, and showing self-injury and self-destructive behavior. In addition, suicide rates have been increasing and affect all ages so consider seeking professional support and care for depression to help reduce the chances of suicide and other possible self-harm behaviors.