GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As more time is being spent at home and with loved ones in response to COVID-19, News 8 is gathering information from experts on ways to protect your mental health and how to approach the coronavirus pandemic with kids.
Licensed master social worker Samantha Akerman, a clinical supervisor at Children’s Advocacy Center of Kent County, said maintaining structure and expectations is the best way to support kids during this time.
“Giving them things that they can do and ways that they can take care of themselves and do their part to help other people is much more helpful,” Akerman told News 8 Monday. “So those simple things that we’ve heard, wash your hands, social distancing and then keeping that structure in place.”
She recommends maintaining a schedule at home as if they were still getting ready for school each day.
“It’s really easy to think, ‘Oh, we have this time off. It’s vacation. We’re going to kind of do whatever we want.’ But that creates more anxiety for children, so the more you can give them structure and expectation, the less anxious they’re going to feel,” Akerman added.
Additionally, Akerman said filtering information from the news and social media is important in protecting kids from content that will overwhelm them.
All the information on the news and social media can stress you out, too.
“With all these things, stress and anxiety can be typical, but we need to be really be concerned when it’s affecting someone’s mental health,” Christy Buck of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan said.
She said to keep in touch with the people you care about.
“Picking up the phone, talking to someone,” Buck said. “There’s amazing things like FaceTime and Skyping and then the eye-to-eye contact to make sure I’m seeing in someone how their thoughts and feeling are. Can I see sadness? Can I see someone unkempt?”
In your home, it’s also important to be discussing body safety and honesty with your kids as some families are thrown off their routines during the coronavirus response.
“Those body safety conversations are so important to be having anyways,” she said. “However, during this time when people are seeking different sources of child care, maybe children are being left unmonitored for longer times than usual, it’s really important to have that supervision in place as much as you can.”
Monitoring internet time is something else parents should keep in mind as the kids are home from school. More resources from the CAC can be found on the center’s website, CAC-Kent.org.
—News 8’s Emily Linnert contributed to this report.