This press release was orginally distributed by ReleaseWire
Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 09/20/2021 -- As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it has irrecoverably altered lives. Schools are class schedules have been different. Activities are altered. Individuals are wearing masks. The length of this crisis is in unprecedented as well.
While it has been around for over a year and a half now, there is still a great deal of uncertainty due to COVID-19, and children and teenagers may have a lot of questions or concerns. There are several ways parents can help their children – and themselves – cope in a time of uncertainty.
"Don't be afraid to talk about it what's going on," said Dr. Neal Davis, pediatrician, Medical Director of Pediatric Community-Based Care, Intermountain Primary Children's Hospital. "Do so in an age appropriate way. Ask what is important."
Take time to talk about what is happening as a family. Conversations should occur where the family is comfortable and when the family has time to ask questions.
Choose an age appropriate way to address the issues. "With a preschool or a very small child this could be some kind of symbolic play," said Dr. Davis. "Have some stuffed animals and playing doctor and nurse and talking about sickness that is an opportunity to ask questions.
"One thing that can really help all of us especially children when we are having an outbreak or a crisis like this is to think about what we can do to engage in the creative process so we don't feel as much like victims," said Dr. Davis.
Dr. Davis says taking steps as a family to ensure you have everything necessary to stay healthy and provide care if someone gets sick creates a sense of feeling prepared. He suggests engaging children and adolescents in tasks they are developmentally capable of doing.
"Helping kids be part of the process of creating different tasks helps empower kids," said Dr. Davis. "'I can wash my hands, I can change the way I am interacting with my friends, I can create a schedule to communicate with grandparents, I can organize different activities at home.' Putting children in a creative process often empowers all of us frankly to be able to manage difficult times," said Dr. Davis.
For older kids, Dr. Davis said just asking what they have heard about coronavirus or the sickness that people are talking about in the news can start a conversation.
"As you discuss it, it is important to have fact-based information. I think it is key for parents to stay up to date. Check in on reliable sites like cdc.gov," said Dr. Davis.
Even with preparation and knowledge, these times are stressful. The first step is to acknowledge the stress that parents and children are facing without judgement.
Dr. Davis says it is important to maintain communication within and outside the family with regular check-ins. Encourage children and adolescents to share with trusted friends and family members.
Routine can also be helpful. "Routines bring a sense of normalcy," said Dr. Davis. "This is definitely not a routine time, but any connection to that brings security to children and frankly to us as well. We must have social distancing, we must be careful with hand hygiene all these things that we hear, yet we can sit down with our kids and say ok what is our routine going to be, how are we going to do wake up and meal times and homework times."
If there is a need for quarantine or other disruption to routine, focus on the temporary aspect of this change.
If traumas/traumatic losses occur, reach out for help/guidance. Contacting individuals less impacted by the trauma can be helpful, and many find support in communities, spiritual groups or medical professionals.
"Some may experience trauma and loss-related symptoms, which medical and mental health providers can help assess and figure out the right next steps," said Dr. Davis.
Children of different ages are impacted by trauma and loss in different ways. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has detailed information for families on how to identify and support trauma and loss reactions among children of different age groups.
If you have concerns about your child's mental health surrounding COVID-19, contact your primary care provider or pediatrician.
"It remains critical to remain very thoughtful about social distancing, making sure we are really good about hand hygiene, and that we are not interacting in large groups, that we are taking it really seriously," said Dr. Davis.
Talk to your family and friends about stressors and check in on them as well. Please reach out to your family doctor, therapist if you need to mental health resources. You can also reach out to the free Intermountain Healthcare's Behavioral Health Navigation Line (833-442-2211) seven days a week, from 7 am to 7 pm. Connect Care for Behavioral Health also allows getting virtual visits with providers.
If you or someone you know needs immediate support, contact the Utah Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255, 24/7).
About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 25 hospitals, 225 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,600 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For more information, see Intermountain Healthcare or the Intermountain Healthcare Blog.
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