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  • Writer's pictureCarmen Vasto

Monitoring Your Child for Signs of Stress During Social Distancing

It goes without saying that these are unprecedented times for all of us. I’m sure you didn’t envision working at home while simultaneously supporting homeschool for your children. Many families like yours have observed that this new dynamic leads to increased arguments, outbursts, and tantrums. Recent updates by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention extending social distancing through April 30th mean we will all be at home in our new virtual schools and workplaces for an extended time. So, how can we cope?

Change requires us as parents to shift our normal routines so that our families can continue to thrive through this pandemic. Many parents I have talked with discussed trying to create a sense of normalcy at home through schedules. I agree that this is a good plan of action and ideal for many of us. However, no two days are exactly the same with changes to school workloads, job expectations and other external factors. It is important for us to regularly assess the stress and anxiety levels of our children as well as ourselves on a daily basis.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network provides some great insight into warning signs of stress in children and teens. Please take time to explore this chart they have created, as it may help you support your children through this difficult time.

The takeaway from all of this is that we all need to keep an eye on our children. Many won’t say directly that they are scared and, for the majority that do not, we need to regularly assess how they are doing through examining their behavior.

Parents often tell me about the pressure they feel to maintain a schedule and the guilt that comes with not meeting this goal. I reassure them all that we are all new at this. We are all doing our best. What is most important right now is that we show our family members kindness and love. I saw a meme the other day that stated: “When this is all over and our children look back on this, they won’t remember the hours you spent schooling them or activities and schedules you created. They will remember the way they felt and the way they were treated.”

I have been trying to take advantage of this time we are all home. Normally, my work hours are very late as I often meet with children, teens and families into the evening. Now that I have currently established a virtual office in my home and am conducting video sessions, I am very grateful for the technology that allows me to meet the needs of my clients. Equally as important, I am really enjoying the time with my wife and kids. Many of the clients I am working with are struggling with spikes in their anxiety due to the current climate. It is refreshing to be able to grab a quick hug from my kids or have a little chat with my wife in-between sessions.

I encourage all of you to find a way to make the most of this time with your family. We were all often running from one sporting practice, game, dance practice, stage crew, band, etc. on a daily basis. Right now, we all have the opportunity to hit the pause button and see each other again. I had a mom tell me last week that this was the first time in 5 years that everyone was home for dinner!

Use this time to create a new family tradition that you can carry over to when we all get back to our normal routines. In my family, we have started family movie night. Each night we take turns picking a movie that we can all watch. It has been fun to see who likes what kind of movie and to talk about parts of the movie we found funny or interesting. What can you do as a family that you have always wanted to do but never had the time for?

Lastly, I need to point out that despite some of the above suggestions, many of us will still struggle with stress and anxiety during these times. If you find yourself or your children needing extra support, please reach out to me. I am providing video sessions using a HIPPA secure server. So far, all of the clients who have had sessions reported how much it helped to connect, vent, and learn/review coping skills.

I hope this blog provides you and your family with some support and tips to make this time at home easier to manage. If there is continued interest, please reach out and I will provide some insight on the importance of socializing over video meetings for our children, teens, and ourselves. Have a good day and stay healthy, everyone!

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