In this new monthly column, therapists from North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center will be answering your questions on issues related to parenting, mental health and children’s well-being. To submit a question, email NSCFGCexperts@gmail.com.
Question: We’ve recently been concerned that our teen daughter seems to be feeling more blue than usual. Her grades have been going down, and she wants to sleep all the time. When we ask her how she’s doing, she gets very emotional. Should we be worried?
Dear Panicked Parents: The pandemic has created an enormous amount of anxiety and sadness for all of us, including our kids. We’ve been dealing with this strange, new reality for eight months now, and there’s no clear answer as to when we will turn the corner and be back to our routines.
The fact that your daughter is feeling stressed and sad isn’t surprising; in fact, studies indicate that these feelings are on the rise all over the country. Changes in sleep and eating patterns are common, as are struggles with the unusual school schedule. Kids are also worried that their loved ones may become ill.
It’s crucial that you always keep the lines of communication open. As parents, we tend to jump in to try to “fix” what’s wrong, instead of realizing that sometimes, your child just needs you to listen and be empathetic, acknowledging their feelings and assuring them you are there for them.
There are some things you can do to help your daughter, and yourselves, during this challenging time. Basics like eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, spending time outside in the fresh air and setting up a regular school and sleep routine can make a big difference.
Of course, it’s important to look out for signs that your daughter’s issues might be more significant and require therapeutic intervention. Some warning signs: a continued drop in grades or refusal to go to school; withdrawing from friends and family; significant changes in weight, either losing or gaining; the inability to feel joy; increased anger; physical complaints like headaches or stomachaches; use of drugs or alcohol; and expressing thoughts of suicide or preoccupation with death.
At North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, we are seeing children and teens via remote therapy during this time, or in person when the situation calls for it. Don’t hesitate to call us at (516) 626-1971 for an evaluation.
Question: My eight-year-old son is in school two days a week and home the other three doing remote learning. While he’s been on this schedule for over two months now, he still struggles at times. What can I do to help?
—Port Washington Mom
Dear PW Mom: It’s common for kids of any age to have difficulty remaining focused on their remote schoolwork, since being at home offers up all sorts of temptations and distractions.
While it can be hard for parents to manage their children’s classwork alongside their own work and other responsibilities, familiarize yourself with your son’s school schedule to ensure he attends online classes and doesn’t miss assignments.
Another way to set him up for success is to create a small, quiet area where he can attend classes and do his homework. You can make it more appealing by personalizing the space with poster boards decorated with name tags, stickers and maybe some favorite photos.
Here are a few more pointers for all parents:
- Encourage movement – build in time for exercise and movement before and during your child’s school activities.
- Reduce distractions including noise and visual clutter.
- Enlist your child in setting up a designated workspace that is comfortable.
- Give your child, and yourself, breaks during the day.
- Particularly for young children, give immediate positive feedback like a sticker or check mark on completed work to help with their motivation.
- Establish good and healthy routines in the home.