Parents worry kids’ mental health will suffer as pandemic drags on

About two-thirds of American parents are worried about the pandemic impacting the mental health of their children, according to a survey by Nationwide Children’s Hospital that finds caregivers believe effects will grow worse in coming months.

The study found 66% of parents surveyed are concerned their children’s mental health will suffer more as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. About 62% of parents believe the upcoming holiday season will be difficult for their kids’ mental health, and 57% of parents report they’re running out of ways to help keep kids positive.

Parker Huston, a pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said one of the foremost things to do is embrace change.

With Hanukkah beginning Dec. 10, Christmas on Dec. 25 and Kwanza starting Dec. 26, Huston recommends not wasting energy trying to perfectly recreate holiday traditions like in years past.

“That’s going to lead to nothing but frustration and heartache, because things aren’t the same as they’ve always been,” he said.

“The quicker we can move on past that, then we can start to be creative about how we can make this holiday season, no matter what holiday you’re celebrating, magical and fun and life-affirming for your kids.”

He suggests trying to make plans as early as possible.

“You want to allow time for excitement and creativity to build,” Huston said.

Huston’s advice for nurturing children’s resilience includes helping them find purpose and meaning.

“Even young kids can set goals for themselves about things they want to learn — things they want to accomplish. And, that gives us a path forward — something to work toward,” he said.

Role models are essential for building a child’s resilience.

“The number one thing is a healthy connection and close relationship with at least one adult caregiver,” Huston said.

Regardless of whether that person is a coach, guidance counselor or teacher — or, even a parent — he said parents should support kids having a positive adult role model who helps them develop self-awareness and self-esteem.

“Make sure that kids are staying connected with adults that they know are really important in their kids’ lives,” he advised.

Huston is the clinical director of On Our Sleeves. It’s an effort to support children’s mental health that offers free resources and advice for parents such as warning signs of depression and anxiety and advice for ways to start sensitive conversations.

You can find program tools at OnOurSleeves.org to help kids stay positive and engaged during the pandemic.

Advice incudes ways to fight boredom, create a schedule and begin building new habits.

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