Experts offer advice on parenting during COVID-19 pandemic

Published: May. 6, 2020 at 9:39 AM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Even those who have been parenting for a while may be second guessing how to go about conversations or day-to-day routines with children in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even though ‘home-or-work’ order was lifted Monday across South Carolina, children are still learning from home.

As a parent during this pandemic, therapists and counselors around the Grand Strand said some of the biggest recommendations is to continue to work on routines and remember to set aside downtime.

Children of all ages are still using e-learning right now and some don’t have the opportunity to see or talk with their friends. For younger children who might not have their own devices to contact friends, experts suggest setting up time for them to communicate virtually.

For some of the children Lori Parrish, the director of children services at Waccamaw Center for Mental Health, works with, initially there was confusion in the change and disruption of their schedules. Now, she said they are working on managing the social aspects.

Parrish said while children may hear many things, some aren’t that concerned with what’s going on because they are home safe but thinking more about their social engagements.

“They really are interested in what’s happening to them and at this point they’ve lost a lot of their social support and being able to do their activities with friends," Parrish said."It’s very significant for families to be able to find ways to connect the kids together socially.”

For those who may be missing out on those last memories with high school, some experts suggest working on goal-setting with them for their future.

Others could maybe even start practicing now for a sports team they’d like to try out for in the future.

Experts also suggest parents use this time to really get to know their kids in a way they might not already.

“This is actually a prime time to reconnect emotionally with your children and do lots of different fun activities like scavenger hunts, dance contest in your family, walking, talking, baking all kinds of things like that,” said Ellen King, owner of TLC Counseling Center.

Some may describe children, especially younger ones, as little sponges, picking up every word adults say without them even realizing sometimes. So as parents talk about finances, work, or other day-to-day challenges, experts say to be mindful of the young ones who may be around.

"If we’re modeling panic and anxiety and depression in front of our kids, they are going to feel that and they are probably going to mirror that back to us,” said Sandy Quast, a licensed professional counselor and owner of Coastal Haven Counseling. “So even as a parent if you’re feeling overwhelmed, there are online support groups, you can go to counseling yourself and get some resources.”

Experts also suggest that overall keeping up-to-date with children and asking them questions like how they doing or what are their thoughts on COVID-19 are some of the biggest messages.

They also said children can sometimes want to act as a protector for mom and dad, and that can sometimes lead to anxiety or depression for them.

"Even the teenagers, they can get quite anxious if they’re hearing their parents talk about losing their jobs or worried about money or worried about their health, so you have to be really careful with that and, again, a lot does depend on the coping skills of the teenager or child,” Quast said.

There are signs to look out for with your children too.

“If children are feeling anxious or depressed or they are feeling nervous, that will start showing up as behaviors," said Mandy Mitchell, with the Clinician Center for Counseling and Wellness. "Things that maybe seem a little out of character, maybe crying a lot more than you would have typically have seen or talking back more than you would typically see.”

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