How to care for your mental health and your kids during times of crisis is something we’ve all come face-to-face with in the past few weeks. As we all try to find our new “normal”, it’s understandable that both kids and parents may experience a strain on their mental health.
As parents, we have to not only care of our mental health but also equip our kids with the tools they need to deal with the anxiety that we’ve seen coming from life during a pandemic.
The following tips and resources were offered by Alexandra Dean, MSW, RSW, Mental Health Resource Clinician/School Social Worker.
- Check in and ask your kids directly whether they are worried or have questions, and do this more than once.
- Keep information honest and accurate without delving into all the specifics.
- Watch the conversations at home about death totals and number of infected.
- Show your child kid-friendly explanations about COVID-19 if they seem interested. We like this explanation from Anxiety Canada.
- Limit exposure to news/COVID-19–related media (for our own mental health, too!)
- Keep to some sort of routine as much as you can, but don’t have parental/caregiver guilt if you can’t!
- Exercise self-care: important for those little eyes watching us.
- Reassure them that this is temporary and that the more everyone does their part by staying home, the sooner we can get back to regular life.
Mental Health Resources for Kids
Try Mindfulness Classes for Kids from Mindful Schools.
Kids’ Help Phone offers really good answers to questions kids and parents may have about the impact of COVID-19 on their mental and physical health, along with their schooling.
All 72 Ontario public school boards are referring to School Mental Health Ontario when sharing tips and resources to support students, families, and the community at large, on coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s a great resource for parents, too.
We also love these 12 easy and fun mental health practices to try with your children at home, another School Mental Health Ontario resource.
CAMH has also put together a great one-pager on how to talk to kids about COVID-19 and the impact it is having on their lives, as well as the world.
A Note for Parents
It is really important during this time not to forget our self-care as adults.
Consider the familiar travel direction when we are on an airplane, “put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before putting it on your child or other vulnerable people” which is counterintuitive to what our first instinct is as parents.
In a time of isolation from our normal work and social lives, try and maintain social contacts as much as is possible. Whether it is by phone, chat groups, or video calls, keep to as much of a routine as you can manage and be gentle with yourself when you can’t.
It is very easy to fall into a negative thinking trap that we are not doing enough for our children, for work, for ourselves, when we look at social media. Remember that it is okay to not be okay. You don’t have to read a new book every day, cook an elaborate recipe or try baking bread for the first time. All you have to do is survive.
Don’t set your expectations extremely high during this time, and if you feel you would like additional support in managing, that is okay, too!
Mental health IS health. Pay attention to your mind and body’s signals on how you are coping. If you are fortunate enough to have an employee assistance plan you’ve paid into, this is the time to use it! If not, reach out to your family physician for a referral, and ask specifically for free to low-cost referrals.
If you are in crisis and need immediate support use this link for GTA crisis supports.