Author: Salma Nabilla Maulida
Reading time: 6 minutes
Word count: 1521
Since the COVID-19 outbreak begin, many countries restrict activities that are done outside the house. Schools, offices, restaurants, and other public places are closed. This is an effort to prevent and reduce the number of people infected with COVID-19.
Most of us are making huge changes to our daily routines, such as working from home and home-schooling. We also lack physical contact with family members, friends, and colleagues. Adapting to these lifestyle changes takes time to get used to.
COVID-19 outbreak can be difficult and challenging for us to overcome, especially for children with mental health conditions.
Your child cannot play outside with friends on the playground. Their life must be surrounded by gadgets because school is held through an online platform.
Your child spends most of their time at home in this situation. That is why your child needs some extra support and care from you as parents during the outbreak. Now, it’s your time to take a role!
You don’t need to worry because this article will give you five tips that you can do as parents to look after children’s mental health.
What does mental health mean for children?
According to The Australian Parenting Website, mental health or psychological well-being means the way children think and feel about themselves along with their surroundings. It influences how children cope with life’s challenges and stresses.
Good mental health is important to support healthy child development. It helps children to build many positive skills, such as social, emotional, behavior, thinking, and communication. It is also a foundation for better mental health and well-being later in life.
Picture: © UNODC/Carla McKirdy
Reasons for parents to look after children’s mental health
Children will gradually face many emotions over a period of time, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak. Parents are the only ones whom children can talk to because they barely meet friends in this kind of situation.
There are many reasons why parents have to look after children’s psychological well-being. However, the four reasons below are great for you as parents to consider or you may already be doing them.
Picture: © familyservicesnew.org
1. Children’s emotions must be recognized
Your child experiences all types of emotions as part of growing up, such as fear, disappointment, sadness, anxiety, anger, joy, hope, and many more.
When children deal with big emotions or calm themselves in emotional situations, they’re likely to feel good about themselves. So, you can recognize their emotion through the way they act, facial expressions, and behavior.
2. You can name the emotion for your child
Children barely cannot understand their emotions. Thus, always talk with your child about their emotions. You have to encourage them to feel and name their emotions.
You can let your child know as well that it’s natural to have all sorts of feelings. Show your child that their emotion is valid and you understand them.
For example, ‘Seems like you’re very sad that you broke your toy. It’s okay I can understand that. Let’s fix it together.‘
3. You have to provide some comfort for them
When something is bothering your child, your role is to give support to them. You should reassure your child that you’re always there for them.
Children need a lot of positive words so that they will grow with positiveness. It is wrong to scold your child just for a small mistake. Instead of scolding them, you can say ‘No problem, you can try again next time to do better.’
Besides, the comfort you build can be an action, such as giving plenty of hugs both when they are happy and sad.
4. Children need a solution from you as parents
Your child needs your help to learn how to cope with the problem. They hope they can manage it well so that the problem won’t get bigger.
As parents, you can help them by encouraging your child to overcome the problem instead of avoiding it. For instance, ‘I know that math is hard, but have you thought about trying out for signing in a math course?’.
5 best ways to look after children’s mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak
Here are the ways you can do as parents to take care of your child during the COVID-19 outbreak. Children surely will have good mental health if you follow these steps.
You can use this simple process to understand more about your child and to improve the way you treat them.
Instead of thinking about how to be the best parents in the world, think about how to raise your child by looking after their mental health.
1. Provide healthy food to eat
Eating healthy food can maintain children’s health, physically and mentally. It also helps children’s brain performance so that they can think clearer.
You can start by providing your child’s favorite foods containing balanced nutrition. Just so you know, favorite food can increase children’s mood becomes better.
Encourage healthy eating habits in your family, especially your child. Moreover, remind your child to drink more water as needed. This little step also prevents you and your child from getting infected with COVID-19.
2. Make sure your child has a good sleep and rest
The relationship between sleep and mental health according to research: sleep problems lead to changes in mental health; mental health conditions can worsen sleep problems.
If your child lacks sleep, it may trigger certain psychological conditions. They will feel irritable and exhausted at the same time. Hence, you should pay attention to your child’s bedtime.
National Sleep Foundation guidelines advise that healthy children around 6-13 years old need between 9 and 11 hours per night to get the ideal sleep duration. Meanwhile, 8 to 10 hours per night for children aged 14-17 years.
3. Keep company with your child while home-schooling
School is held through an online platform due to the restriction from the government. That is why you as parents have a role as teachers for your child at home.
Your presence in the learning process is a sign of supporting them. So, your child won’t feel stressed yet be motivated and enjoy their online class.
Help your child when they face difficulties both in attending online classes and in doing assignments. You can also provide the facilities that your child needs to support their learning process.
In this way, home-schooling during the COVID-19 outbreak is more efficient.
4. Build a good relationship with your child
Shelli Dry, an occupational therapist from Enable My Child, United States, asserts that children tend to find it hard in solving the problem of the relationship. This is what makes them stressed more.
Foremost, children spend almost all of their time at home during the COVID-19 outbreak. You need to get close to your children due to this reason. You can do it by showing attention, being good listeners, and being friends who are always there for them.
Try to observe your child in your care and be concerned over their emotional health through the communication that occurs between you and your child. Therefore, always communicate openly with each other and never jump to conclusions.
By doing this, your child will get affection and get used to communicating. They will be very open to you talking about what they experience.
5. Encourage your child to do activities
One of the children’s problems in the COVID-19 outbreak is a lack of activities so they get bored easily. They spend most of their time in front of the screen, such as studying through an online platform, playing an online game, and watching TV. This habit will slowly make them stressed and hurt their eyes.
Doing positive activities is beneficial for both physics and mental. It helps children feel good about themselves as they develop new skills. For example, you can support your child’s hobbies by providing facilities or enrolling them in a course.
If your child loves to draw, it is either you can buy them painting tools or you may invite a teacher to teach your child drawing at home. If possible, you teach them yourself while drawing together so they won’t feel alone.
Moreover, you can also invite your child to be involved in household chores, either cooking or gardening.
“If you have good thoughts, children will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely!” – Roald Dahl
Supporting your child with their mental health will lead them to have a positive impact on their social interactions with others. It also increases their ability to make friendships.
If you leave your child unsupported, it may cause behavioral difficulties which lead to further issues later in life.
Supporting children’s mental health from a young age during the COVID-19 outbreak may be hard for you as parents. However, this opportunity can only happen once and this outbreak shall too pass.
Therefore, having more awareness of mental health can only be more beneficial for children and families.
If you feel concerned that your child is showing signs of poor mental health, it’s best to seek professional help as soon as possible. They can guide you to the most appropriate services for your child.