Building Resilience in a Pandemic
Parenting in the midst of a worldwide pandemic clearly creates new challenges, but our goal at CATCH remains the same: helping families raise resilient, independent children.
Dr. Claudia Welke, Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer at Compass Health Center, says there are specific steps we can all take to keep our kids on track. Here are her recommendations:
Structure & Schedule The lack of structure is the most obvious change to our daily lives. Children no longer have a full schedule defined by school and parents’ working hours. Dr. Welke says maintaining some type of structure will enable productivity which gives us a sense of who we are, but flexibility is key. "Rigidity wouldn't be helpful," she said. Dr. Welke encourages parents to develop a schedule that makes sense for their child. Grade school children typically function better when a parent creates a schedule and presents it to the child. Just make sure to incorporate some fun. Parents of teenagers should partner with their kids to come up with a plan. “I always say, know your kid. What works for one child may not work for another. Some do better with clear boundaries,” she said. Getting yourself and your kids outside everyday will help support whatever schedule you create by regulating the circadian rhythm that affects the sleep-wake cycle. Acknowledge Emotions Give your children permission to feel sad or anxious. Many kids are grieving the loss of something like a sports season, a school play, or a family trip. They are missing the small moments with friends in the hallway or lunchroom. Let them know their feelings are valid and common: this is a stressful time for everyone. By balancing their emotions with acknowledgement and empathy, you can help them find comfort, a silver lining, and gratitude. Provide Space Families are spending more time together than usual, and parents should understand that teens may not always want to hang out with the adults in the house. Give your adolescents time and space to do their own thing. Social Connections & Social Media Encourage your kids to stay in touch with others, and technology is our friend in this situation. “The pitfalls of social media are still there, but we want kids to be connected in some way. This doesn’t mean they should be on technology 24/7. Find a balance,” said Dr. Welke. Change the Subject We all want our kids to be aware and informed about what’s happening in the world, but that doesn’t mean current events should be all-consuming. Find other things to talk about around the dinner table. Turn off the tv news and focus on other topics. Prioritize Communication Take time to talk to your kids at their level. Check in with them on how they are feeling, find out what’s affecting them most, but don’t bombard them with questions.
Thank you to Dr. Welke and Compass Health Center for this valuable advice. We are grateful for all of the mental health professionals who are providing much needed support to our community during this unprecedented time.