Kids have been through a lot since the COVID-19 pandemic began: school closures, massive changes to how they socialize and unrelenting uncertainty about what comes next.
Fortunately, mental health experts are quick to note, children are, on the whole, resilient. But there are plenty who are struggling. In one study, 60% of teens said they’re feeling lonely and 50% said they’re feeling anxious. Up to one-third of parents say they’ve noticed their children’s mental health get worse since March.
There are many ways parents and caregivers can help children cope with the pandemic and everything it has brought about. One of the simplest is just to ask. But those conversations can be difficult, particularly if they’re new for your family or if your child isn’t particularly talkative.
Here are four simple, expert-recommended questions to get you started.
1. What do you think about what’s happening right now?
“Parents have to keep in mind that kids aren’t necessarily thinking about everything that is happening right now in the exact same way they’re thinking about it,” explained Jill Emanuele, clinical director of the Child Mind Institute’s Mood Disorders Center. “It’s really important to start with general, open questions.”
So just ask your child what they think or feel about what is happening right now. Maybe don’t even mention the COVID-19 pandemic.
Part of what this kind of broad question — and others like it — does well is help give you a sense of what your child thinks he or she knows about what’s happening in the world around them. If they’ve picked up false information, this can be a good way to talk to them about it. You can also be honest with them about what you don’t know.
2. How do you think your friends are dealing with everything?
Some kids might respond really openly to big, open-ended questions. Others might not have much to say at all. For those children in particular, it can be helpful to use their friends...