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: My son and daughter are athletes on their school’s sports teams, and they’re really struggling with the loss of these activities due to the pandemic. How can I help them deal with this difficult situation?
Dear Sports Mom: Being part of organized sports is such an important part of life for many of our children and teens, and you’re correct in describing this as a loss.
The many benefits of sports to a child’s physical and mental well-being are well known. Sports help kids develop fine motor skills, reduce stress and boost their immune systems. Children who participate in sports tend to have greater self-esteem. They learn teamwork, responsibility and perseverance, and they develop lasting friendships.
Many of our kids are experiencing a deep sense of grief. They’ve not only lost sports, but also many other important activities and the many relationships closely tied to those experiences.
As with any disappointment, encourage your child to discuss their feelings instead of keeping them all bottled up. You never want to give the impression that this isn’t a big deal. It is!
While they may want to spend more time on their screens, it’s important to set limits. Too much screen time is likely, in the long run, to make kids feel more isolated, unmotivated and demoralized. It’s fine to relax those rules to some degree, allowing for the diversion and connection with their peers, but don’t abandon reasonable limits altogether.
Perhaps your most important tool is to create other opportunities to keep your child healthy and engaged. Those could include family walks or other physical activities, such as practicing drills together or doing an online exercise class.
Although we don’t have a timetable for when the pandemic will be over, let your kids know that the best medical experts in the world are working on the solution and that you are optimistic that things will return to normal.
Question: Our daughters, one in middle school and the other in elementary, were taunted by one of their classmates because they are Chinese Americans. The boy called them derogatory names and said that they caused the pandemic. What can we do to protect them from this type of discrimination?
Dear Heartbroken Parents: Sadly, anti-Asian bias has been widespread throughout the country and right here on Long Island. Verbal and even physical assaults against kids and adults have risen dramatically.
Your first job is to listen to your children closely and validate their feelings. They are likely frightened, angry and even embarrassed—all normal responses to such a traumatic event. Tell them they have nothing to be ashamed of and being bullied is not their fault.
Report the incident to their teacher, guidance counselor and principal. Suggest that they discuss bias and racism in the classroom and assemblies. Students need to be taught that any type of racist behavior or slurs will not be tolerated. They also need to learn about the value of diversity from a very early age.
Some more important steps:
- Advise your children to record these interactions with their phones as soon as they begin.
- Give children age-appropriate facts about the virus, so they know no culture is responsible for the pandemic.
- Model the behavior you want to see in your children by being anti-racist yourself.
- Teach them to stand up for themselves respectfully without escalating the situation further.
If the bias is an ongoing problem or there is any physical harm or threat of harm, contact the police, and make sure your children know to dial 911 if they are ever in danger. You can also report the incident to Nassau County’s Office of Asian-American Affairs at (516) 572-2244.