May is Mental Health Awareness Month. And, kids have been going through a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic — the uncertainty with school and missing time with friends has been impacting their mental health. And as summer approaches and it appears we’re returning to some sense of normalcy, it’s important to check in with our kids.
Dr. Sarah Jerstad, pediatric psychologist at Children’s Minnesota, is helping parents navigate these upcoming changes.
Dr. Jerstad on WCCO
Watch Dr. Jerstad on WCCO discussing kids’ mental health during a pandemic.
Why is it important to check in with kids, especially right now?
Kids have experienced a lot in the last year. It’s time to check in with them.
The COVID-19 pandemic
After a global pandemic, it’s normal that mental health could be suffering more than usual. As parents the message to your kids should be that they are not alone, and that seeking help is normal and very much OK.
Kids have had a lot of change in their lives over the last year, especially when it comes to school. Many kids have experienced distance learning, switching to hybrid and then back in in-person learning. All that change can cause a lot of stress and anxiety.
The impact of the killing of George Floyd
Also, the week of May 24, 2021, marks one year since George Floyd was killed, which put could possibly put an extra strain on our kids’ mental health, especially Black children and other children of color.
How to help
It’s always important to check in with your kids to be able keep communication lines open with them and let them know you can get them the help they may need. At Children’s Minnesota, we offer a free parenting line and through our primary care clinics, we do have some access to behavioral health services.
What can parents do for their kids as life get slowly back to “normal?”
Keep in mind the difficult year kids have had. As summer approaches, parents may think, ‘we’re vaccinated and now it’s time to dive back into the old routine.’ But, that could be overwhelming for kids.
Kids haven’t been used to that type of busy social schedule. Kids could have some anxieties about socializing again, or might still have worries about the virus. Parents are encouraged to check in with kids and ask how they feel about getting together with friends or family.
It all comes down to open communication for little kids—keep the messages really simple. When you model comfort, kids will notice and feel comfortable.
It’s a great time to listen. If your child brings something from social media, use it as an opportunity to teach them and possibly learn.
How can parents comfort kids who are now eligible to get a vaccine?
Help end the fight against COVID-19 – and get your kids back to ‘normal’ life with the COVID-19 vaccine. Schedule your eligible kids (ages 12 and older) for the COVID-19 vaccine. Then, talk to them about why this is so important.
While you’re there to get vaccine, let your child ask the vaccinator or health care provider questions. This will make them feel empowered. You can also answer their questions as well.
Then, after your eligible kids are fully vaccinated, be safe, but make this summer about something other than COVID-19. If there’s one positive for kids during this time it’s they are learning to cope with the unknown — help kids stay in the moment and focus on what they do know.