How to help children and teens navigate the new normal since the COVID-19 pandemic hit our area
It’s been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit our area. A concern for the mental health of our kids - especially teens - is still relevant, as is helping them to navigate the new normal.
RAPID CITY, S.D. — When kids and teens try to filter through their emotions, it can be overwhelming.
By listening and reassuring children that the effects of the pandemic are beyond their control, and that it’s ok to have a sense of loss from unmet expectations, it can help to normalize the struggle and allow them to adapt to the environment.
Angelena Plummer, Licensed Professional Counselor at Sacred Path, says, “It is through transitions we become someone we haven’t met before. We react differently to our environments, maybe it’s a new environment so maybe we are also meeting a new self, so to help process to be ok with kind of letting go of what was or who you were and embrace who you are becoming.”
Trust your instincts. Changes in behavior are a red flag for anxiety and depression.
Plummer says, “If you suspect something or have a feeling, follow through on those feelings. Talk to your kids, look at your behaviors, if they are changing in their dress and the way they eat and their sleeping habits, they are maybe isolating or withdrawing not doing the things they normally enjoy.”
If you know that something is going on and you can’t reach your kiddo, offer help from an outside source.
“You can absolutely take preventative measures to protect them, so keeping medications, weapons, things like that, out of their reach and also offering outside support. A lot of times kids don’t want to talk to their parents or people in their immediate environments,” says Plummer.
Reassure children they are not alone. Keep them grounded and engaged by supporting interests or new hobbies. And consider their online learning style – if they struggle with visual or auditory learning, try something interactive.
“If we learn better through experiences, provide some experiences for kiddos to have some hands on activities,” says Plummer.
It’s also important to continue healthy routines, like eating nutritional food, continuing good sleeping habits, and getting plenty of movement each day.
A good place to start for resources is the 211 helpline.