Mental health is a topic that has stirred up more conversation over the past couple of years. Within these conversations, there are common concerns and questions regarding mental health treatment, especially due to the extent of impact of recent events. The covid-19 pandemic, ongoing adjustments and changes, racial injustices and ongoing political turmoil have contributed to an increase in anxiety and depression. These events are happening at a global and local level, and our children are not immune to the impact of these events in their lives.
In fact, some of our most beloved family members and friends, including ourselves, are directly impacted. The extent of impact of these events varies for each individual, and it is crucial to pay close attention to the needs of our children as these events and experiences continue to unfold.
This article seeks to address some common concerns surrounding mental health and hopefully shed light into the healing work that is therapy. If you are a parent or caregiver that needs guidance in how to know if your child would benefit from mental health treatment and how to address global and local events impacting your child’s mental health, you are in the right place.
General Guidance for addressing global and local events:
The universal part about trauma is that it can impact people of all ages. It knows no bounds. Trauma can result from exposure to one or several stressful events such as the ones we are currently experiencing (e.g., experiencing Covid-19, losing a loved one due to the covid-19 pandemic or racial injustices/community violence). The depressive and anxious symptoms that can follow these events can be debilitating and as parents and caregivers, it is important we are a consistent, active, and provide a safe voice and presence to our children during these unprecedented times. It is important we keep an eye out for how these events are impacting our children. The following are some helpful tips on how you can guide your children during global and local events:
Check-in with your children on an ongoing basis: It is important to provide opportunities for children to tell us how they are doing. Many children have been socially isolated since the on start of the pandemic and this has caused heightened sadness and anxiety. They miss their friends, their learning experience is different, their world of play has drastically changed. As a result, their motivation is significantly impacted. Keep an eye out for their level of motivation, isolation, and any substance use. It is also important to be attentive to any physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches. Notice and ask about their quality of sleep. Ask them what kind of support they need from you and get creative with them! Some options include utilizing safe virtual platforms and methods for them to continue reaching out to their friends. Some schools have after-school virtual programs to provide positive outlets for students to socialize with their peers and to participate in activities. Talk to your child’s school about safe social opportunities.
Be open to your children’s questions: Children need a safe and supportive environment to ask questions and to express their thoughts, feelings, and needs. Allow them the opportunity to explore their thoughts and questions with you. Most children are constantly exposed to the news through their TV or phone. Global and local events are reported on most social media platforms. Make time to talk to children about these events and help them set limits with how much exposure they get to all the current events happening. It is important to have a balance of staying informed, while also setting healthy limits. It is also ok not to have all the answers. Be honest with them and remember that you set the tone for conversations. Cater your responses to their level of understanding and maturity.
Highlight Safety: Many children will experience a sense of fear when there is discussion about the current pandemic, racial injustices and our current political climate. Remind them of what is in their control and what you can do as a family to take precaution and stay safe. Remind them that while some things are uncertain and you may not have all the answers, you do know that you will do your best to be present with them and keep them safe. Children need to verbally hear this. It can also be helpful to discuss challenges that the child and family have overcome together before.
Seek support too: There is no doubt that these current times and events are just as difficult for parents and caregivers. Reach out to your child’s therapist for ongoing support and if you are in need of any resources. If you think you or your child may benefit from mental health treatment services, please reach out to The Guidance Center and we will direct you.
Ruth (Becky) Flores, LMFT is a Clinical Therapist in The Guidance Center’s Long Beach School Based Program, where she helps guide children and families struggling with mental health conditions or abuse toward positive and productive futures. She is especially passionate about challenging mental health stigmas and building a bridge between the community and mental health overall, especially within the Hispanic community. She is also passionate about strengthening relationships between adolescents and their caregivers, and providing a safe place of healing and growth for families. Before joining The Guidance Center team in 2016, Flores worked with at-risk youth in a high needs middle school serving low income families as a School-Based Therapist. Flores earned a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at Hope International University.