Amidst the shakeup in routines, not being able to see friends, and stresses of home life, child and youth mental health during the pandemic is an issue that can’t be put on hold.
In Simcoe County and Muskoka, even though traditional face to face visits with counselors aren’t available, service providers are still hard at work and ready to talk to the kids.
In Muskoka, appointments are available by calling Family Connexions at 705-645-4426 ext 6270. In addition, they have launched Safespot.ca, a new online web-chat service for youth in Muskoka and across the Parry Sound and Nipissing districts.
New Path Director of Service, Michelle Vennard says their call in clinic is the first step in accessing services at New Path. “Should further services be required, our New Path workers can link families with internal services or make referrals to other community partners.” Many of these services have little to no wait. You can access the call in clinic at 705-725-7656 or via email at email@example.com.
Vennard says in the last while they have seen in an increase in children and youth struggling with anxiety and stress. “It’s about missing peers, their routines, and activities. Like all of us, children thrive on the known; and with COVID- 19, the unknowns are many.”
In addition to seeking help, there are ways parents and caregivers can help their children if they feel anxious and stressed.
Vennard suggests that where possible, try to maintain realistic routines and structures. “Family dinner times, bedtime rituals, and regular wake up times are routines that can continue. Other routines may be different such as outdoor time, and school time; but having a predictable pattern to the day is helpful.”
When possible, have your children take part in planning their days. Small, manageable choices are a good place to start.
Try to monitor media coverage by making sure what they access is reputable. Vennard says that engaging in conversation about what kids are hearing and answering their questions is important. “Arm yourself with good information and then listen and respond as honestly as possible. Many anxieties or worries come from feeling uncertain. COVID-19 has brought many uncertainties, so it’s important to listen and validate their feelings.” For younger kids, limit media coverage to their developmental age and level of understanding.
Parents also feel stressed so modeling good coping is important. Vennard says that children and youth respond to their parents’ feelings and actions. “Parents need to ensure they have their supports such as friends and family. If parents can model good coping such as regular exercise, proper hand hygiene, mindfulness; whatever works for them; children will pick up on that.”
Vennard encourages parents to get the support needed if the situation feels overwhelming. “If your child is having an increase in sleep difficulties, needing excessive reassurances, an increase in tears, anger, or other behaviours; these may be signs that they’re struggling to manage their emotions and may need more help. New Path is here to help, reach out.”