Lynn Skrukrud: How to help kids in pandemic
Being a parent during the pandemic has been tough. Distance learning, political and economic uncertainty. So many curve balls have been thrown at us. For many, social isolation has been the most difficult challenge. It’s especially hard for young people.
Socialization is an important part of adolescent development. Adolescents depend on friendships to maintain a sense of self-worth and manage anxiety and depression. It is also a pivotal time for the formation of their personal identity and learning nuanced interpersonal communication skills.
Before last March, youth were spending at least eight hours per day surrounded by friends and peers. Then is was all ripped away from them overnight. Since then, we have seen a dramatic spike in mental health needs among youth. Emergency room visits related to youth mental health have increased significantly since the start of the pandemic.
WHAT TO DO
Parents can help their struggling child. Just a few minutes every day to connect and communicate with your child can make a huge impact on their overall well-being.
Connect. We all have the need and desire to connect. Right now, your child may be lacking connection with their friends, so it comes down to you. Take a few minutes each day to actively listen to your child. Start a conversation. Don’t interject or judge, just listen.
Communicate. Practice clear communication and discuss expectations with your child. Try having weekly check-ins to go over their school schedule and chores.
Comfort. Being a teenager is hard enough under “normal” circumstances. Now adolescents are facing a new level of difficulty. Show them that you understand what they are going through. A simple hug and pat on the shoulder can go a long way in helping your child feel comforted.
Consistency. The activities young people previously relied on for stability have been disrupted. Establishing a clear and consistent routine can help keep your child stay grounded, including exercise and tech-free breaks. Get out of the house, even if it’s just for a walk.
Celebrate. Many children are missing out on rites of passage, such as homecoming games, prom and performances. Help your child identify and celebrate the good things they have.
Contribute. Children need a sense of purpose, and giving back to the community can refocus their attention away from their troubles — and make them feel connected to others.
You can find a good list of organizations with the Center for Nonprofit Leadership at cnlsierra.org or volunteer opportunities listed by Connecting Point at connectingpoint.org.
Despite your and your child’s best efforts, the pandemic may still be impacting them, which is why it’s important to know the warning signs and when it’s time to seek professional help.
These can include changes in sleep habits and patterns, difficulty getting out of bed, changes in mood, feeling hopeless, withdrawal, uncontrolled anger, anxiety, or agitation.
If you are concerned for your child’s well-being, seek help. Don’t be afraid to ask your child if they are feeling depressed or if they are considering suicide. It’s a hard conversation, but it might save their life.
You don’t have to do it alone. Our community offers a range of resources, including counseling services and youth support organizations, like Bright Futures for Youth.
What’s Up Wellness Checkups: Provides emotional health checkups to high school teens. Parents can sign their children up using the online consent form of through their school or at http://www.whatsupwellness.com.
Bright Futures for Youth: Provides academic, emotional and social support services and engaging activities for youth ages 11 to 25, http://www.bffyouth.org.
Nevada County Suicide Prevention: http://www.mynevadacounty.com/2918/Suicide-Prevention.
Your child’s school: Our community’s schools have access to well-trained professionals.
Lynn Skrukrud is youth outreach and events coordinator at Bright Futures for Youth, and co-founder of NEO. Bright Futures for Youth has three programs providing services to youth in Nevada County. For more information, visit http://www.bffyouth.org.
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