Avoid These Parenting Pitfalls! Strategies to Protect Your Child’s Mental Health During Lockdown
Behavior Analyst, Chris Messina, discusses parenting pitfalls to be aware of in order to help protect your children’s mental hygiene during coronavirus and lockdown measures.
Pitfall #1: Don’t double down on kids and try to over-compensate for what is perceived as missed time.
Many parents feel that they need to set hard rules and push for increased accomplishments in order to make up for lost time in school and around peers. This includes rigorously tracking academics, skills, and lessons, such as music or languages.
Rather, take stock of your child’s mental wellness right now. They may very well need the opposite approach for these coming summer months.
Connectivity is key for children. Create a game plan with your family and discuss what levels of exposure with other’s you’re comfortable with. Plan for events where kids can see their peers while recognizing public health advisories. This may also be a time to relax rules with technology regarding Facetimes, messaging, and other apps that allow kids to stay connected and social with each other from afar.
Pitfall #2: Don’t treat lock-down, especially during school months, as an extended summer vacation
It’s very possible that this spring was not simply a one-off, as it’s becoming more apparent that this situation may not be over anytime soon. Many parents are relaxing their rules and treating this time as an extended summer vacation, such as: ultra-late bedtimes, sleeping past lunchtime, unlimited time on technology, loosening the reins on any kind of real structured day.
The primary way to address this as a family is to generate a weekly schedule by collaborating with your kids, which allows you to roll out your week ahead and have some structure. Get creative with ways that your kids can invest their time this summer. With kids experiencing an abundance of anxiety and depression, they may not generate these ideas organically and by themselves, and may default to phone time, bedroom time, or isolation. Therefore, it’s important that parents advocate, encourage and brainstorm with their kids.
Pitfall #3: Don’t forget to be intentional and check in with your child; simply being at home isn't enough
Most kids communicate their feelings through behavior over words. Signs that your kid is experiencing anxiety, depression, loneliness, or lack of stimulation may be expressed as agitation, physical aggression, sourness in behavior, or mood swings.
To combat this: make sure that you are regularly checking in with your child. Give it the time, listen to their thoughts, get a pulse for where they are and how they’re feeling. Oftentimes, if parents initiate the conversation, and even open up about their own concerns and vulnerabilities, they can create momentum and children will follow suit. Don’t wait for your kids to initiate these conversations- they may be uncertain about how they feel, and initiating mental dialogue may not be in their behavioral or emotional repertoire.
Divorced parents who are struggling with co-parenting during unusual and difficult schedules, research collaborate problem solving. This is an approach and a tool to help develop effective communication and problem solving skill for the well-being of children.