Mental Health Mondays – “How to Exercise Healthy Coping and Model It for Your Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic”

Mental Health Mondays - April 13 Event

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Key Takeaways – April 13, 2020 | 8:15 p.m.

Amy Quinn, Marriage and Family Therapist

“How to exercise healthy coping and model it for your children during the COVID-19 pandemic”

Five Strategies for Healthy Coping Skills

  1. It’s important to recognize that your body and brain are under a tremendous amount of stress. If you feel exhausted, it’s for a reason. Stress does make it harder to use healthy coping, but it’s also why it is so important to make efforts for healthy coping to replenish your body and brain. Exercise, eat healthy and drink a lot of water, and help your children to do the same.
  2. Have a schedule for yourself. Routine creates structure and predictability for children, and they need that right now because their worlds are upside down. Create something they can rely on; it’s really good for them. Make sure your schedule has a balance of exercise time, family time, work time and down time.
  3. Give your kids space to feel. This crisis is bringing up so many feelings for ourselves and our children. It’s important to recognize what you are feeling, because if you are able to recognize what you are feeling, then that gives you the space to have empathy for your children. Children are more likely to open up during play time, so make sure you take time to play with them. Be ready to listen.
  4. Give yourself and your children encouragement. Surviving every day, even if not perfectly, to meet your kids’ basic needs and keep them safe means you’ve done a good job. Don’t forget to tell your children what a great job they are doing, because this is hard.
  5. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity. Research has found there are 10 things that predict greater success bouncing back after adverse events. You don’t have to do all 10 of them, even one or two consistently means you are more likely to bounce back. Here are a couple: Find positive role models. Find people in your life, in history or in your family who have gone through difficult events and survived. Children who know
    more about their own family history score higher on measures of emotional health and self-esteem. Practice altruism or social interest. Caring about others has predicted wellbeing and better life adjustment. Helping people creates meaning, releases dopamine in the brain. If you unable to get out and help others, you can tell your children that by staying home, they are helping to stop spread of the virus and keep people safe.

Resources:

Dr. Daniel Amen, post-pandemic, very practical tips to stay strong now: https://danielamenmd.com/

Feelings and Emotion Chart for Kids: https://www.funwithmama.com/feelings-chart-for-kids/

Understanding How Your Teen Thinks – Dr. Jeramy and Jerusha Clark: https://youtu.be/QHN53y3vdk4

 

Questions from viewers:

Q: What do you advise parents who are stressed out and not at their best?

A: It’s a stressful time. You probably won’t be at your best. Set realistic and achievable goals for yourself every day. If you are still working and working with your kids, give yourself breaks throughout the day. Take a short walk outside, do a dance video. Make sure you are connecting with other parents. Be honest and authentic with each other.

Q: Should we adjust our outlook on schoolwork with kids now that we now a teacher in addition to regular daily tasks you need to get done?

A: Absolutely. We are in a crisis and our needs have changed. We need to get our basic needs met. We need to make sure we are keeping our bodies healthy and we also are worried about our safety. We have things we need to get done and then there are extras. If you are getting the basics done, that’s good.

Q: I’ve noticed that my child is needing extra cuddle time, to the point of almost being clingy. Is this normal? Or should I be concerned?

A: Yes, it’s very normal. Children are feeling very scared right now. Their safety is being threatened. It’s a very biological and even instinctive response for children to attach to their
caregivers, because they protect and keep them safe. Oxytocin is a very powerful bonding hormone that is released during cuddle time with children. Be sure you are leaving space for cuddle and connection time, because it’s really important for them.

Q: How can we help our kids with all the negativity that’s out there right now?

A: Focus on the positive. Encourage your kids and yourself. There are different activities, like gratitude journals where you can write five things that you are grateful for. Or write down three things that went well each day.

Q: Children will start to experience changes and their friends will experience changes too. How can we teach empathy and have them show empathy for their peers?

A: One of the ways to do this is to help others. Another great way to teach children empathy is to model it yourself. If you don’t recognize and validate their feelings, they are going to have a hard time being able to recognize their own feelings and also the feelings of others.

Q: What about getting along with teenagers when everyone is at home?

A: Understand that teenagers have a unique brain that is going through a lot of changes. Some of things that you see with teenagers such as acting out, not talking, or being super emotional, all these things are because of their brains. Their brains are going through a lot of changes. Just know there is an explanation for some of the things teenagers are doing. If you can read some articles on what’s happening to them, it will give you some empathy. Teenagers feel emotions a lot deeper and stronger than a lot of other age groups.

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Founded in 2016, Kids’ Minds Matter is a unified movement in Southwest Florida dedicated to advancing pediatric mental and behavioral health services. By developing clinical pathways to screen and treat patients, enhancing public awareness through education, and lobbying for systemic change and sustainable funding, Kids’ Minds Matter aims to align mental health providers, local agencies, the judicial system, law enforcement, schools and faith-based organizations. Kids’ Minds Matter is managed through the Lee Health Foundation.

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