US survey finds parents worried about kids’ mental health as holidays approach amid pandemic

Experts encourage families to embrace change, create new traditions

Survey finds parents worried about kids' mental health as holidays approach

DETROITAs the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, a new survey finds parents are worried about their children’s ability to cope -- especially with the holidays approaching and a long winter ahead.

Dec. 4, 2020: Michigan coronavirus cases up to 389,032; Death toll now at 9,661

Dr. Parker Huston, a clinical psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, is sharing how he’s building resilience in his children.

“We put a chalkboard on the wall because why not make an adjustment like that?” Huston asked. “The kids think it’s fun. We can practice math problems or writing and spelling and things like that.”

The Huston family’s dining room has been transformed into a learning room for their children.

Huston speaks with countless families about coping with stress and creatively building resilience in their children during this challenging time. It’s something he’s putting into practice in his own household.

“As parents, I think it’s on us to be a little bit creative this year, thinking through what are some activities, what are some ways they can stay connected? What are some ways that they can get their energy out this winter?” Huston asked.

A new national survey by Nationwide Children’s Hospital, finds two-thirds of parents are worried the effects the coronavirus pandemic is having on their children’s mental health will be harder to reverse the longer it continues.

The survey also finds nearly 60% of parents feel they’re running out of ways to keep their children upbeat and positive, but Huston said children can be adaptive with the right support.

“They’re constantly changing and adapting to new things and learning new things,” Huston said. “The biggest thing that they probably react to is how the adults in their lives are responding.”

It’s important to adjust your home environment to create as much structure and normalcy as possible, with designated spaces for learning, alone time and play.

Even Huston said he was amazed at his daughter’s positive spirit when she got the news that her special art academy would now be switched to online-learning.

“She looked right at me and said, ‘You know, now that I get to do it at home, I’m a little bummed that I won’t be at school, but now my brother can do it with me and I can show him all the projects and maybe he can do some too,’” Huston recalled.

He said it can be difficult for children to miss out on holiday traditions.

“Kids have expectations, they have a history, they have memories, and so when we have to tell them things are going to be different this year it can be hard for them to accept,” Huston said. “Especially if we’re going to seemingly miss out on some of their favorite parts of the holiday season.”

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He said everyone is dealing with difficult changes and has the need for resilience.

“Resilience is a big term, but really when you break it down it’s our ability to adapt to difficult changes in our lives. And we all have to do that at various times, it just happens that right now is a prolonged period of that for pretty much everybody across the country,” Huston said. “My daughter has been really impressive to me because she quickly adapted. She’ll now remind me, ‘Oh, dad, I have to get my extra mask this morning to take to school,’ or, ‘I’ve got only two more apps to do and then I’m done with my day.’”

Huston is the clinical director of On Our Sleeves, a movement to transform children’s mental health that offers resources to parents, such as conversation starters and warning signs of depression and anxiety. More tools to help children stay positive and engaged can be found on its official website here.

About the Authors:

Kimberly Gill joined the Local 4 News team in November 2014. She was named Personality of the Year in 2009 by the Ohio Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame. She’s also a two-time Emmy winner.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.