How to parent during times of crisis

How to parent during times of crisis

By Life@TheU

How to parent during times of crisis

By Life@TheU
UHealth experts share resources for parents and ways to support children.

As children across the country wrap up another school year, parents and guardians may find themselves considering how to bridge this next phase of the “new normal.” While there is no one-size-fits-all handbook to guide parents or guardians, especially during a pandemic, there are ways to focus your child’s energy into positive outlets and find support and resources.

Talk it out.

During periods of change, it’s important to check in regularly with your children and offer support by answering questions and helping them manage their anxiety and frustrations. Depending on a child’s age, there are ways to broach a subject—like talking to your child about COVID-19—and provide clear answers and guidance that suit your child’s developmental stage.

The same applies when discussing current events and important topics like race, civil rights, and social injustice. According to Dr. Nicole Ann Mavrides, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UHealth, “children under 3 or 4 won't understand the unrest, but they can pick up on fear and anger in their parents.” But parents with older children, including teens, need to have open and honest conversations about what is happening.

“If we don't talk to our kids about what is happening in the U.S. right now—the protests and concern about the rights of people of color—then kids may think that their feelings are wrong or confusing,” noted Dr. Mavrides. Because, children look to their parents to help navigate the world, especially during troubling times. If parents ignore what's happening or don't comment on it, kids may feel like they can't ask questions or talk to their parents. “It also sends a message that racism doesn't exist,” she added.

“Racism can be taught early on, so the sooner kids start learning and reading books about multiracial characters, the better,” said Dr. Mavrides, who suggested reading to children, especially the younger ones, and having books with diverse characters. The following are a few resources she listed that may be helpful for parents.

  • Common Sense Media has put together a list of about 80 books, television shows, movies, and other resources with multiracial/diverse characters for parents.  
  • EmbraceRace.org has a list of resources for younger childrenincluding articles, webinars, and action guides. 
  • Read books with your children, including “The Skin You Live In,” “Be Kind,” “Doc Like Mommy,” and “Young, Gifted, and Black.” 
  • “Sesame Street” and CNN hosted two town halls for families. Watch the 60-minute special about standing up to racism and the special that addressed the coronavirus pandemic.

Know when they need help.

Being able to recognize signs of depression or mental health concerns in your child and where to turn for help can be part of the challenge for parents. Dr. Stefania Prendes-Alvarez, youth psychiatry expert with UHealth, says parents and teachers are often in the position to spot troubled teens and children. By knowing the signs—particularly among adolescents struggling with mental health issuesparents may be able to help their child or one of their peers before they are a danger to themselves or someone else. Learn more about depression in children and how to spot a troubled teen

Supporting the transgender/non-binary children and adolescents in your life is just as crucial to ensure they have a loving  environment in which to flourish. For many, even the smallest act of kindness and compassion can be lifesaving—along with being careful with your word choices, asking questions, and educating yourself.

Find opportunities to learn.

Be creative and flexible with learning opportunities, whether or not in a structured classroom environment. Parents should focus on opportunities to continue emotional learning, which is important for all children. Dr. Gwen Wurm, pediatric physician with UHealth, notes that for parents, changing expectations and broadening the scope of what learning looks like can be helpful. When children are frustrated and disappointed, she suggested responding with openness, kindness, patience, and honesty. Explore more tips to support your child’s learning.

Prioritize a healthy lifestyle.

According to Dr. Raul Poulsen, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with UHealth, parents can use this time at home as an opportunity to create a healthy lifestyle. Dr. Poulsen recommended establishing a family schedule, including input from your children to give them a sense of control and ownership. As families spend more time at home together, make time to relax and reduce stress. Monitoring what's on the screen can be just as important as monitoring the amount of time children spend online. Learn more about parenting through a pandemic.

Keep up with routine medical care.

While families may be physically distancing during the pandemic, that does not mean children should skip vaccinations from preventable diseases. Doctors warn that delaying routine vaccinations could cause a spike in infection rates among children, which can also spread to adults. 

Dr. Judith Schaechter, chair of pediatrics at UHealth, noted that the vaccinations focus on the benefit over risk of harm and that the novel coronavirus is not the only concern among the health care community. Routine vaccines offer children, families, and everyone they encounter even higher levels of protection. Learn more about vaccinations and how to protect your child from getting infected when visiting the pediatrician.

Access the medical care you need at a UHealth facility or via telehealth by scheduling an appointment. Find additional information about scheduling or call 305-243-4000. Learn more about the psychiatry treatment and services at UHealth.

Live Well with UHealth is a series highlighting curated content from articles previously published on UMiami Health News, a site that shares useful health tips and insights into research discoveries that change lives, brought to you by the experts at UHealth—the University of Miami Health System. This story highlights the following articles: