How to Keep Kids Resilient in a Strange Holiday Season
Parents who are worried about the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on their children's mental health can help them build resilience, according to experts from Nationwide Children's Hospital.
A hospital survey found that two-thirds of parents worry that the effects on their children's mental health will be more challenging the longer the COVID-19 pandemic goes on.
But the experts said that parents can set kids up for success with open, honest and empathetic family conversations about how traditions might be different this year, and thoughtful planning for activities.
"Parents should take heart that kids have the ability to be incredibly resilient with the right support," said Parker Huston. He's clinical director of On Our Sleeves (the movement to transform children's mental health), and a pediatric psychologist for Big Lots Behavioral Health Services at Nationwide Children's, in Ohio.
"As they grow up, children are always changing, adapting to and learning new things. Of course, they do have their own expectations, routines and memories, so when they are told at this time of year that their holidays are going to be different, it can be difficult for them to accept, especially if they feel like they're missing out on some of their favorite parts of the season," he explained.
Huston suggested tapping into gratitude, which can help strengthen mental health in both children and adults. While kids may be disappointed about what they're missing out on, parents can encourage them to talk about what they're grateful for this year. Parents should share their feelings and listen to their children, he advised.
"As parents, I think it's on us to be more creative this year, considering our kids' favorite parts of this season and coming up with ways they can stay connected and active, even if some traditions need to change or be made new," Huston said in a hospital news release.
For example, "A cooking or baking lesson could be a great way to teach kids more about the family recipes they enjoy, and outdoor games can help keep everyone active and engaged with each other," he added.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers additional suggestions for ensuring children's mental well-being during the pandemic.
SOURCE: Nationwide Children's Hospital, news release, Dec. 2, 2020