There’s no way around it. These are stressful and challenging times. Are you worried about the emotional toll the global health crisis is having on you and your children? You are certainly not alone. There are many reasons you may be feeling anxious right now. You may be wondering if it’s possible, or sustainable, to keep your child on track academically while also staying on top of your own work life. We are also hearing that parents like you are worried about the impact that long-term social distancing will have on their child’s social and emotional skills. We wanted to share several ways to help you and your family navigate this anxiety, including tips for supporting your child’s mental health during the pandemic. 1) Normalize the anxiety. According to an article from UNICEF, a mental health expert shared that there is no way around the fact that adolescents and teenagers are going to feel anxious right now. But one of the best ways to support them is to validate their feelings. Reassuring your child that what they are feeling is completely normal is a good first step to alleviating some of their anxiety (as well as your own). When our bodies are under incredible stress, we have a physiological fight or flight reaction. This can manifest in different ways in children. Recognizing that they are having the same experiences we are and that this is an incredibly scary time can remind children that they are not alone. Helping your adolescent or teenager know that their anxiety is actually helpful in addressing the problem can also be useful. Their body’s “fight” mechanism can help them to take the right steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For example, washing their hands, not touching their face, practicing social distancing, and following state and national guidelines to stay home to save lives are all ways they are doing their part to help solve the problem. 2) The only way out is through. When we are going through anything difficult, whether it’s a work challenge, grieving for a loved one or fighting an illness, the only way to get to the other side is to push through it. It’s important to remember the same principals apply when dealing with a global pandemic. According to the British Psychological Society, one of the best ways to help you child “through” the stress of this time is to talk openly with them about the changes they are seeing around them. Talking as much as possible about how they are feeling, their concerns and what could possibly happen, can help them to work through their anxiety. Encourage your child to understand that despite the major challenges that we are now facing, this too shall pass. Help your child to remember that this is a moment time, albeit a scary moment, but a moment nonetheless that will eventually end. This reminder can be comforting to hear, particularly for young people who have less life experience and have a harder time putting this crisis into perspective. 3) Find positive distractions. Encouraging your child to take their anxious energy and put it toward helping those who are in greater need can boost their mood and provide a healthy distraction. There are endless opportunities to help and get involved during this crisis. For example, your teenager could help deliver groceries to seniors in your community or those who have health concerns and are unable to leave their homes. Your child could help to sew face masks for their local medical community who is in dire need of personal protective equipment (PPE). Or maybe they could help make cards for those who live alone and are feeling very isolated, boosting their spirits while providing healthy opportunities for your child to get involved. That is truly a win-win. 4) Take a walk (without your phone). We continue to mention exercise in our blog posts because it is one of the healthiest ways to instantly improve the mental health of both children and their parents. But while on that walk or a jog outside to get fresh air, eliminating negative distractions can be very beneficial. This means leaving your phone (and the instant news updates that continue to take an emotional toll on our wellbeing) should be left at home. Your child has most likely been spending far more time on social media and screen time than they did previously. Taking a break outside without their phone can give them time to clear their mind and the inundation of negative news, allowing allow them to tune out and reset. There is help available If these tips are not enough and you think your child still needs more support, there is help available. You can reach out to organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness or Mental Health America or your school counselors.. We are also here to help however we can. Please reach out to us with any questions or needs for additional support at www.apexlearningvs.com. We are wishing you and your family continued health, safety and comfort throughout these difficult times.