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Worried about keeping their children safe from a deadly virus. Worried about lockdown loneliness. Worried about the toll isolation is taking on the health of their kiddos. And for good reason. Research shows that loneliness in kids, especially over long periods of time, is linked with depression, anxiety and a risk for suicide. Experts say its effects may even be felt for years afterward.
Friendships and interaction with peers are vitally important to the health and happiness of young people of all ages. While many of the simple pleasures and milestones of growing up have been upended, there’s a lot parents can do to nurture their children’s social, emotional and mental well-being during this uncertain time.
The Centers for Disease Control offers a COVID-19 Parental Resource Kit. The kit offers advice tailored to four age groups: early childhood, childhood, adolescence and young adults.
Along with their suggestions, here are other proactive ways you can help your kids on a daily basis.
Restore a sense of routine. Life as we know it has been turned upside down. Give your children the purpose and order they crave and need to feel safe and secure. Eat meals at regularly scheduled times. Spend some time outdoors each day; go for a walk or to a nearby park for play time. Keep homework and bedtime rituals in place.
Get your kids to talk. Children can have a harder time talking about how they feel. Ask open-ended questions and allow them to lead the conversation. Let them know you understand their feelings. Help get things started, if you want, by having them write down things they miss about certain people, places or events, then talk about it.
Help them connect with others. Your kids and their friends may no longer be physically glued at the hip, but they can still spend time together. Reach out to other parents to set up regular phone or video calls if your kids are young. Give older children the okay to text their friends or play online games together. Just make sure they are enjoying quality screen time and monitor their online activities.
Give kids some control. So much of the new normal is beyond kids’ control. Help them feel like they still have choices. Ask them to choose what you have for dinner. Let them pick the next movie, music or game your family enjoys. Empower daily aspects of their life.
More than anything, be affectionate with your kids in words and actions—even if they are strapping teenagers. If your child seems sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks, reach out to your doctor for help.
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