When lockdowns, travel restrictions and social distancing protocols were first announced last year, little did we know then, that a year later we’ll be back to square one. This has not only affected the mental and physical health of adults, but is also showing signs of stress and fatigue in children.
The crucial years of social development have been snatched from them as they are confined to the walls of their homes.
This is especially true during Phase 2 (heightened alert) in Singapore with more cases of the coronavirus reported in children. The new strain has shown to attack kids, and while there haven’t been any fatalities, it can get overwhelming to constantly live in fear.
A year of the pandemic has made anxiety and depression common terms to associate with kids. Not just mental health issues, but parents are also noticing abnormal weight gain in children. This has been a result of a more sedentary lifestyle along with a messed up sleep cycles.
It can get increasingly difficult to keep a track of your child’s mental health, and parents need to be more vigilant to avoid the pitfalls of living in an isolated environment.
That’s why you need to know how to help a child with anxiety and depression to make sure your kid rides the pandemic wave in peace.
5 Ways To Help Your Child Deal With Mental Stress
1. Keep checking in
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It’s never too much to keep checking in on what your kids are doing. Between online classes, binge-watching sessions and video calls, boredom can get the better out of anyone and kids too can feel the same way.
That’s why make it a point to check in on your child at least once a day. Ask them, “How are you feeling? Are you feeling happy? How was school? What about your friends?”
Children may seem annoyed by the barrage of questions but be rest assured they will appreciate the effort in the long run. Developing an open communication line will help your child speak to you about their fears, especially during the lockdown.
2. Go outside
We understand this is quite opposite of what you should be doing right now. But for the sake of you and your child’s mental health, experience the outdoors once in a while. Of course, this does not mean dining out or visiting a public space.
Instead, take a walk in a park or play badminton while maintaining social distancing protocols. This will help you keep a check on the sanity levels.
Fresh air and the sun can do also wonders for the body. And kids tend to be happier, more attentive and less anxious too. Another redeeming factor that will help your child maintain a healthy mind is good nutrition.
3. Ease the restrictions
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While it’s necessary to have boundaries in the house, the pandemic might just be the time you can relax a little. Your kids are already restricted from their regular schedule and adding more will negatively affect your child.
In order to balance it out, let them stretch their privileges a little in terms of food, playtime, and more. But do encourage them to use this more productively, and also work on their physical strengths.
Joining a gym class online or watching instructional yoga videos would be a nice way to make screen time productive. You should also include them when preparing lunch or dinner, especially when it’s a recipe they like. This helps create a different environment within the house, and also more bonding time for you and the little one.
You can also try and organise playdates with other parents and children whilst maintaining social distancing guidelines.
4. Stick to a consistent schedule
Stick to a schedule when it comes to maintaining your mental health during the lockdown. Create a timetable for your child and you, like in the old days. The schedule needs to include everything right from waking up, breakfast, online classes, playtime, to brushing their teeth and tucking them in bed.
Doing the regular things actually has a calming effect on people, particularly on children.
You should also try and have at least one meal together as a family. Even though you live in the same house, your respective schedules may not let you spend time with each other.
Experts suggest that children who participate in family rituals like eating dinner or reading together, tend to be emotionally healthy.
They also show signs to be more socially adjusted, which helps in handling the unpredictable in a composed way.
5. Pay attention to yourself
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And finally, if you want to learn how to help a child with anxiety and depression, start managing yourself first. In aeroplane safety, you first wear your oxygen mask and then help your child, mental health works in the same way.
Kids are reactive to the situation around them. When parents are frustrated, yelling and frequently clashing in their professional and personal lives, it does reflect on the home as well. This is extremely relevant in today’s times when there’s no demarcation between the home and office. Kids see how parents are responding to the pandemic and that will trigger their own anxiety and frustrations.
Take the time out to de-stress yourself and engage in things that make you happy. If you need some alone time, communicate it to the other members of the family so they know you should not be disturbed.
Pay attention to your physical health and add a workout or yoga session for at least 30 minutes during the day.
With the vaccination drive underway, not all hope is lost. We will slowly but surely reach the other side of this pandemic. The government has also approved the vaccine for kids (between ages 12-15 years), and the entire community is likely to be vaccinated by the end of the year.
Until then, stay strong, hold tight and take all precautions necessary. The kids and you will ride this storm out safely.