Helping Kids Manage Mental Health Through COVID Lockdowns

Announcements of lockdown restrictions are the new normal as COVID rates ebb and flow throughout different regions. Lockdowns are an important public health strategy for keeping the population as a whole safe from becoming infected f with COVID and stopping the transmission of COVID. However, although there are life saving reasons for lockdowns, they can still be difficult to manage, especially for kids and parents as they try to navigate through these challenging times. Below are helpful strategies to help kids stay mental healthy and happy during COVID lockdowns.

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Set a routine

Routines provide kids with a sense of familiarity and security. Despite some kids complaining that the same routine can be boring, knowing what to expect throughout the day allows kids to pace their mental energies. Ensure routines include fun activities, whether it be game time, tasty snacks, or time for online social interactions, so they have something to look forward to each day.

Participate in online school activities

Teachers are dealing with a whole range of new challenges when needing to switch from in-class to on-line learning. Some teachers may be more adept at the technology and the challenges of online teaching than others, making some classes awesome and others sub-optimal. Regardless, encourage kids to make the best of online learning by attending class time regularly and staying on top of the assignments. Some kids may function better doing a quick check-in online then completing the work on their own, while others may enjoy doing the work during online class time. Staying connected regularly with their teacher, their peers, and their assignments can help maintain as much of a sense of familiarity as possible.

Get regular exercise

Numerous studies have shown the positive effect of exercise on mental health. Without recess and lunch breaks to run around and play for younger kids, and regular gym class or school sport teams for older kids, fitness may be getting left behind during lockdowns. Whether getting exercise outside or indoors at home, aim for at least 30 minutes per day five times per week. Older kids can be inspired by online workout challenges, many of which don’t require any equipment. Younger kids can join online group dance and fun fitness classes led by online instructors. There are many free online fitness options, or, for usually just a modest fee, paid classes can be found from experienced instructors from all over the world.

Make fresh air a priority

Similar to exercise, getting fresh air is a simple way to promote positive mental health. “Nature Bathing”, where someone immerses themselves in a forest with an awareness of the sights, sounds, touches, tastes, and smells of nature, has become a new trend, and for good reason. However, not everyone may have easy access to a forest when restricted to stay home or close to home. Either hand in hand with exercising outside, going for a light walk or, if allowed within specific regional lockdown guidelines, meet with an allowable number of friends outside, maintaining safe social distancing and masks. Be aware of kids getting lost on screens for hours on end, and ensure everyone gets some fresh air. Despite cold weather, bundle kids up and get outside.

Be realistic

Overall, be realistic with what to expect from kids during COVID lockdowns. Lockdowns likely are not the time to expect kids to pick up a new instrument or language. Their mood and motivation might not be at its peak. Kids still need to be kids, and need downtime. Setting schedules that are overly strict might set everyone up for failure.

It’s important for parents to keep in mind that their own generation did not have to deal with a pandemic like COVID, and nobody is an expert at how to do this. When families have the added challenge of parents working either inside the home and trying to focus on their work needs or outside of the home and dealing with childcare or older kids staying on their own, being realistic about expectations of the day is important for everyone. In addition, parents may also be caring for elderly parents in their home or supporting them in retirement homes,which also needs to be closely monitored.

As redundant as it sounds, these truly are unique times. Helping kids set a routine, manage their best through online schooling, and find a few pleasures throughout the day can help the whole family get through lockdowns.

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