When we first become parents, the hopes and dreams we have for our children are boundless. These tiny little humans who we have sworn to nurture, protect and love without condition have a lifetime of opportunities awaiting them. But life is unpredictable, and we face challenges for which we are unprepared. No matter how fiercely we fight to protect our children, there are some things in life we can’t control. According to the World Health Organization, 20% of adolescents (age 10-19) will experience a mental health condition, and now with families facing life during the Coronavirus, those mental health conditions will intensify. In the article Mental health and psychological resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization outlines the impact that COVID-19 can have on children and families and makes recommendations on how to handle this unprecedented time.
When a loved one, especially one of our children has a mental health disorder, the added stress it brings to the other members of the family can be overwhelming. Not only are there day to day challenges, but when an extreme crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic hits, managing life becomes much more difficult. If your family is coping with the stress of a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder, here are some tips to bring a little peace to your life and ease some of the anxiety in the home.
Mental Health Family Stress Tips
Build family relationships – Focus on your entire family. Caring for someone with mental illness can be all-consuming and put a strain on other family relationships. Create a safe environment for open communication and be present for all of your children and partner. Think of stress-free ways you can spend time together as a family and make a point to have some one-on-one time with everyone. Social connection and a strong family bond are essential factors in mental wellbeing.
During this pandemic, all of this family closeness can cause tension. Be sure to bring your family outside for exercise while practicing social distancing. Also, allow quiet time to give each other space in the home. Hold a family meeting to discuss ideas with each other. 125 Ideas to Keep Kids Entertained During the Coronavirus Crisis.
Find a support system – Build a network of people to talk to. Support groups of parents with similar circumstances exist online and meet in person. Learning through other people’s experiences will make you feel less alone. Seek help from a professional counselor or therapist. It’s always good to have a neutral person with whom you can share your feelings and who can give you a different perspective. Keep your friends close. Stress at home can lead to social distancing, so it’s important to maintain friendships and have conversations about other topics in life.
During this pandemic, rely on online support groups, social media forums, and connecting with friends and doctors via Zoom. Facetime gives a connection you might not feel via texting and phone calls. Many therapists are offering to counsel clients through telehealth or teletherapy. We are having to practice social distancing, so we need to be resourceful. Resources for Supporting Your Child’s Emotional Wellbeing During the COVID-19.
Learn to cope with fear and anxiety – You cannot live in constant fear. Develop coping mechanisms for times of high anxiety so you don’t get burned out. You can practice meditation or yoga, go for a walk or run, knit, cook, or do anything that calms you. Make a calming activity part of your routine and take time every day to think about all the positive experiences you have in life.
During this pandemic, taking a break from the news and practicing relaxation techniques will help you to maintain your mental health. Ease fears by letting your family know that we are all in this together. 7 Ways to Support Kids and Teens Through the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Be an advocate – Learn everything you can about your child’s condition so you can know what to expect, be understanding of their feelings and behaviors, and manage their recovery. If mental health is impacting your child’s education, talk to the school about receiving appropriate accommodations, care, and services. Get your family involved in advocating for your child. Everyone may handle challenges in a different way, but if you combine your strengths, compromise, and communicate openly, you may find a great support system right at home.
During this pandemic, realize organizations and trusted outlets are putting out information to support you through these difficult times. Share articles that work for you with others. Coping With Anxiety and Depression During the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Stop blaming yourself- It’s easy to feel guilty and helpless when your child is suffering. The mind is a mysterious thing, and mental illnesses have a lot of contributing factors that have nothing to do with your parenting. Blaming yourself for your child’s mental health is unproductive and not good for your emotional wellbeing. Instead, focus your energy on providing support and seeking appropriate care for your child.
During this pandemic, there are additional demands like homeschooling being added to an already full life. Children with mental illness might have difficulty with this change in routine. Be patient and gentle on yourself. Use positive statements to remind yourself that these are extraordinary circumstances, and you are doing the best you can. Reach out to your educational support team to see what help they can provide. Helping Children Cope with Emergencies.
Take a break – You do a great job taking care of everyone else, but you have to make sure you are taking care of yourself, as well. With so much responsibility, it can be scary to step away from it even for a day, but you must protect your own mental health. Take some time to be alone and do something for yourself. If you allow yourself to decompress, you will be a far better caregiver in the long run.
During this pandemic, you can still schedule downtime for self-care, an online yoga class, or talking to a friend. If you have two adults in your home, you can alternate supporting this time for each other. It is easy to forget to call friends during this time, but chisel our time where you can take a break from your family for a call. How to Look After Your Mental Health During a Pandemic.
Whether you are new to this journey or have been on this road for a long time, it is always a good idea to check in with yourself and your family. The stress of caring for someone with a mental health condition can make you feel powerless. With a strategy in place for dealing with the obstacles ahead, you and your family can stay strong together.
Lori Lite is the founder of Stress Free Kids and has authored 12 books. Stress Free Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children Build Self-Esteem, Manage Stress, and Reduce Anxiety has been named a Best Stress Management Book of All Time. Angry Octopus Color Me Happy, Color Me Calm has been awarded the Mom’s Choice Award. Lori’s content is featured in hundreds of media outlets, including CBS News, CNN Living, WebMD, The New York Times, Family Circle, and Parenting Magazine.