This time of distance and disruption has been challenging for many, especially our youth.
Our children thrive on relationships with peers and social interaction. While their smartphones allow them to keep in contact with their friends, many are struggling with this new sense of normalcy. Kids are feeling isolated from the people, peers, and places they have grown to love and depend on.
Now is the time we should all think about how we can support our children and ourselves best. Kimberly Palmiotto, licensed educational psychologist, and professional clinical counselor suggests that as adults it is imperative that we model calm, focus on emotional and physical health, and create a school system at home. “Children look to adults as a barometer of how to feel. If you are consistently talking about how worried you are they will model that behavior.”
Nancy McCamish, a local mental health professional, encourages adults to make sure they are taking care of their own needs as well. “Take stock of your own support system by turning to family, friends, your neighborhood, or faith community.” In an effort to promote health, wellness and connection within the family McCamish offers these ideas.
- Talk about highs and lows at the dinner table
- Have children take turns making dinner once a week
- Choose a novel to read out loud as a family
- Get outside daily
- List three positive things each evening
- Play uplifting background music in the home
On Academic Progress
Ahead of another semester of distance learning, Palmiotto encourages students to find ways of exploring education that speak to their individual interests. Parents, she says, should let go of the expectations that learning at home has to perfectly mimic learning in the classroom. Still, setting aside a designated learning area can help give a sense of normalcy and scheduling time for school work as well as socialization is essential.
Palmiotto says that children are resilient in their academics and parents should be aware that even if regression does occur, kids can typically find their way back quite easily. She says that in order for children to be open to learning youth first need to be in a receptive frame of mind. Other tips include trying to create opportunities for space between siblings, space for calm and quiet, and seeking opportunities as a family to praise and reward even small accomplishments.
When Worries Get Worrisome
McCamish encourages families to be aware of any warning signs of mental health deterioration within the family unit. Signs to watch out for when it may be time to seek help include persistent irritability, lack of enjoyment in tasks usually preferred, changes in sleep or eating patterns, increased isolation, verbal expressions of hopelessness, poor hygiene, decreased interest in going outdoors, and reckless or dangerous behaviors.
School Counselor Lauren Haines wants parents and students to know that even though they may not be physically in the building, support staff is available. “School counselors are available to virtually meet with students by appointment,” Haines says, “and many have Google classrooms with strategies and activities to help with common issues like stress or anger.”
In times of isolation and anxiety, we must come together to support each other as a whole. The emotional and mental wellbeing of the family unit is what matters most during these times.
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