How can you stay calm in the face of a major crisis? It is a challenge for us all, but especially children! Aside from getting sick, many youth's social, emotional, and mental health has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specifically, during this time, we are seeing many experience anxiety, depression, and grief. Mental health experts note that there are similarities between children’s symptoms to those disorders. Children may be irritable, have low energy, have difficulty falling asleep or sleeping too much, and have problems with schoolwork (feeling unmotivated or not able to focus), or not getting along with others at home. It’s important to sort out some of the differences — here are some distinguishing factors between anxiety, depression, and grief to lookout for:
- Children with anxiety often experience excessive worry that is difficult to control.
- Children with depression often experience persistent low mood, sadness, feeling “blah” or cranky.
- Grief or bereavement centers typically around a particular loss.
In fact, “mental health problems can impact every aspect of a child’s life, including school performance,” says Lin Min Kong, Clinical Director from Hathaway-Sycamores, a community mental health agency and a KIPP SoCal partner. “There is significant research that school mental health programs improve educational outcomes by decreasing absences and improving test scores.”1 Clinical Director Kong highlights that “in one study involving more than 270,000 students in grades K-12, students who were involved in social and emotional learning programs improved grades and test scores by 11 percentile points.”2
And while we are physically apart, KIPP SoCal Public Schools remains committed to our whole-child approach to learning. In support of meeting the socio-emotional needs of our learners, our partners at Hathaway-Sycamores share some healthy ways to cope with the overwhelming stress of this pandemic that you can employ at home:
- Let your children know you are interested and care, be gentle and curious, ask open-ended questions and be ready to listen with an open heart and validate their feelings. It’s important to make time to check in and listen to your children.
- Build strong community connections. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support from friends, family, neighbors, church, school, and/or professionals.
- Provide structure and daily routines so that children know what to expect.
- Participate in regular exercise and, if possible, safely spend time outdoors.
- Eat healthy foods and have regular meals.
- Engage in mindfulness and meditation.
- Join in activities that you and your children enjoy and build on your skills, talents, and strengths.
- Find and point out the positives. Stay hopeful.
Now more than ever it is important to stay connected as mental health experts stress that “a strong social support system improves overall mental health outcomes and the ability to bounce back from stressful situations.” “What’s most important is letting your child know that you care, that you are there for them no matter what, that their well-being is most important to you,” states Clinical Director Kong. “Let them know that they can talk with you. Try to listen without lecturing or giving advice, particularly if your child is an adolescent. Sometimes your child will say they’re fine when they are actually struggling.” She adds, “they may be afraid you will get mad at them, they may not want to worry you, they may not have the words to express themselves, they may not even be aware there’s even a problem. Keep an eye out for signs they might be having a hard time. Observe and ask open-ended questions such as, ‘Is anything worrying you or making you feel sad?’”
During this COVID pandemic, there’s a fundamental truth that gives us hope — that together we can do extraordinary things. Hathaway-Sycamores is offering services via phone, video-conferencing, and in-person to support at-risk families in our communities when needed. They are equipped with masks and other protective gear to reach out to our families as they shelter in place. If you or a family member is seeking support in child or family services, Hathaway-Sycamores is welcoming new referrals during this unpredictable time at 1(844) 222-2377 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us on Wednesday, January 27 at 4 p.m. on Facebook @kippsocal with KIPP SoCal Director of Mental Health & Support Services, Jasmine Lamitte, Hathaway-Sycamores Clinical Director, Lin Min Kong, and Clinician II, Sheila Mikail for KIPP SoCal’s January #WellnessWednesday — a bilingual community information session — where you’ll learn about anxiety, depression, and grief, when and how to get help, and ways to increase coping skills for you and your family to help remain calm.
About Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services: Hathaway-Sycamores Child Family Services is committed to cultivating hope and resilience to enrich the wellbeing of children, adults, families and communities.
- 211 LA (available 24 hours/7 days a week)
- LA County Department of Children & Family Services 1(800) 540-4000 (available 24 hours/7 days a week)
- LA County Department of Mental Health 1(800)854-7771 (available 24 hours/7 days a week)
- Homeless Health Care Los Angeles 1(213)744-0724 (available M-F from 9am-5pm PST)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness 1(323)-294-7814 (available M-Th from 10am-4pm PST)
- National Institute of Mental Health 1-866-615-6464 (available M-F from 5:30am-2pm PST)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1(800)273-8255 (available 24 hours/7 days a week)
- Or, if possible, please don't hesitate to ask for help from your health professional.
- Don't Feed the WorryBug by Andi Green (anxiety)
- In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek (emotions)
- Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival (anxiety)
- The Boy with Big, Big Feelings by Britney Winn Lee (anxiety/depression)
- The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions by Anna Llenas (emotions)
- The Invisible String by Patrice Karst (separation anxiety)
- When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death by Laurie Krasny Brown (grief)
- When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt by Molly Bang (emotions)
- When Sophie Gets Angry — Really, Really Mad by Molly Bang (emotions)
1 Jennings, Pearson, & Harris, 2000
2 Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011