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A School Psychologist's Guide to Supporting Your Child in COVID-19 Lockdown This Year

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The beginning of the new year usually brings hope, resolutions and plans. This January 2021, the new year feels different. More of the same. It’s been 10 months, almost one year of living through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Our lives are the most isolated they have been given the dark, cold winter and a holiday season that was “OK” and pretty much unsatisfying for many. As we continue to parent day by day with virtual learning, working from home, video meetings and chats and limited interactions with the outside world, our stress and exhaustion level is increasing.

What a Mess!

The struggles of parenting during COVID-19 have been immense. Think about how you and your family are coping. Are you, your significant other or children:

  • Overeating?
  • Undereating?
  • Oversleeping?
  • Under sleeping?
  • Struggling to fall asleep?
  • Feeling lethargic?
  • Overexercising?
  • Feeling anxious?
  • Displaying OCD-like behaviors?

As we continue to not be able to identify an end in sight, we may be finding ways to cope that aren’t necessarily helpful. Take note of how you and your family are coping and discuss if your go-to ways of managing through this time are not bringing relief.

Many of us, as parents, and our children feel out of control and anxious, and our usual outlets are not available. Mom’s nights out, going to the spa, exercising at the gym or extracurricular activities, hanging with friends and other ways to have fun and decompress are no longer available to us, or are available with significant limitations.

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When Should I Start to Worry About My Kids?

For many of our children, they are adjusting and functioning as best they can given all of the limitations they are facing socially and academically.

Take note of any of the following:

  • Interacting less with peers via video or in-person (as you have permitted).
  • Turning in few or no assignments.
  • Grades are declining.
  • Sleeping more.
  • Sleeping less.
  • Eating more.
  • Eating less.
  • Tearful or agitated.

If you are noticing any of these signs, open a discussion with your child and try to get a sense of your child or teen’s struggles. If needed, engage a therapist to work with your child and with you.

Survival Parenting

As parents, there are days we are unclear as to how to support our children. It can be anxiety-provoking and overwhelming. A few things we can do:

1. Don’t hover.

As our children seem to withdraw from academics or from interacting with us, our natural tendency is to hover or even micromanage. For teens, this strategy will create greater tension and conflict. The very behaviors you may be looking to improve will actually worsen.

This is a time to give your child some space and compassion. Ask them what you can do to help and avoid telling them what is going to happen. Your child or teen is likely feeling out of control and for you to take even more control away will not help the situation.

2. Work together.

If your child is becoming less engaged in their schoolwork, create plans that allow the two of you to check in on grades together, once per week on an agreed-upon day and time. Ask questions rather than give directives. Validate your child’s experience and let them know that it’s OK to struggle.

This is a tough time. We haven’t lived through a pandemic before now, so we are figuring things out as we go. Focus on your child’s mental health first. Spend quality time with your child doing something that they enjoy and that has been agreed upon in advance.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Originally published: January 18, 2021
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