Coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic

Links and Articles on Coping with Covid 19, Reducing Related Anxiety, and the Return to School

Coping with Covid 19 Resources - Anxiety Canada

Back to School During Covid-19 - Tips for  Parents and Caregivers - Cheo

Supporting Your Child's Mental Health As They Return To School During Covid 19 - UNICEF

Covid 19 and Anxiety - Here to Help BC

Covid 19  Learning Hub - About Kids Health

Tips for Mindfulness and Coping with Anxiety - Mayo Clinic

Anxiety  in Youth - Anxiety Canada

Anxiety in Children - Anxiety Canada

Mindshift App - Anxiety Canada

Teenagers and Reopening  - Child Mind Institute

What   To Do (and Not To Do) When Children Are Anxious - Child Mind Institute

How Teenagers Can Protect Their Mental Health During Coronavirus - UNICEF

Mindshift CBT Groups (for adults and  youth) - Anxiety Canada

Daily Structure in Self-Isolation - Here to Help BC

Self-Reflection During Self-Isolation - Here to Help BC

Positive Distraction - Virtual Museum Tours

Resources for Support

Crisis Centre -  Support by chat or phone.

Kids Help Phone - Support by chat, text, or phone.

Child and Youth Mental Health Services 

Covid 19 Mental Health Supports - Here to Help BC

Helping Your Son During the Pandemic  - Monica Beck, R. C. C. , Personal Counsellor

We appreciate that this has been and continues to be a challenging and stressful time in the homes of our families. Thank you for supporting your sons in their well-being, adjustment to the new normal, and maintaining our sense of community. We are all here to support you - please reach out at any time. Below are some considerations for helping your sons through the school year.

1.      Help your son create and maintain a schedule including and beyond school: time with family, meal times, relaxation, virtual visits with friends and relatives, exercise and sleep. Having a set routine with associated expectations will result in more productivity and balance as well as less conflict. This is particularly important with respect to sleep schedules as it is even more tempting for students to stay up   very late socializing virtually and/or on devices during the pandemic restrictions.

2.      Strongly encourage and expect your son to pursue regular exercise. This is extremely important as we know there are significant benefits to managing stress, mental health, a sense of productivity, sleep, and physical health. Boys in particular need this outlet, particularly if they have been involved in extracurricular athletics which are not occurring with the restrictions. Feeling physically strong translates into feeling mentally strong.

3.      Model healthy coping with your own sense of stress and uncertainty and share healthy doses of how you are feeling and coping to give your son permission to do the same. Be mindful of boundaries - young people are already dealing with a lot through this pandemic - concerns about finances and other ‘adult’ matters should not be added.

4.      Receive your son’s emotional expressions, even if difficult, with understanding and compassion - this is a very difficult time for a teenager. Remember that boys are socialized to ‘be strong’ and keep their feelings in. They may not have the language or experience to express how they are feeling in healthy ways. Your son may be showing his stress through irritability, anger or defiance. Acknowledge that this is a stressful time and it is ‘okay’ to feel that way. Help your son understand his feelings by labeling them for him and working together to identify healthy ways to cope, regain perspective, and seek out assistance. 

5.      Support your son’s executive functioning. In these current circumstances even older teens likely need additional support to complete work for deadlines and to break down assignments or study time into manageable steps or timeframes, etc. With the new mini-semester schedule it is all the more important to avoid procrastination as the mini-semester will pass quickly. Sit down with your son, each day if possible,  and help him make a ‘game plan’ for starting and working through assignments. Help him to prioritize based on deadlines and how much each assignment is worth, maintain perspective, and reflect on how good it feels to be productive.

6.      Remind your son that everyone around the world is in the ‘same boat’. Help to normalize this abnormal experience and to quell worries with a focus on one day at a time. Encourage your son to focus on what he can control/influence rather than worrying about what may happen or dwelling on the negatives.

7.      Understand and address feelings of overwhelm. Provide encouragement and praise more than normal for your son’s efforts and success in adapting to the new normal and for tasks completed. Focus on and communicate the expectation that he will ‘do his best in this time’ as that is all we can ask of ourselves and others. It may not be perfect or typical and that is okay.

8.      Be observant for signs of excess stress when more practical help, positive distraction, listening and empathy, or time out may be needed. Encouraging your son to learn and practice stress management strategies can also be helpful at these times. Many helpful strategies are available on the Anxiety Canada website: www.anxietycanada.com. The associated Mindshift app is an interactive tool which can be downloaded onto any device. Practice relaxation strategies like calm breathing or visualization together. Acknowledge that anxiety is normal in these circumstances filled with uncertainty. Focus on the mantra: This too shall pass.

9.      Balance positive encouragement and neutral conversations with guidance and reminders about school to keep your relationship with your son strong. Try to avoid recurring themes of conflict which indicate that a different approach may be needed.

10.  Model, articulate, and encourage the motto of work before play. Help your son avoid distractions during study time and think of them as rewards once his school and work time are done. Provide rewards if you can and encourage your son to think of things that would feel rewarding that he can provide himself.

11.  Validate your son’s feelings about losses -  the normalcy of school as it was, changes to extracurricular activities, athletics, etc. Create as many virtual or in-home replacements as possible and remind your son that all teens around the world are unfortunately facing the same highly unusual reality, but that it will be temporary.

12.  Encourage the pursuit of new or old hobbies that can be facilitated at home e.g. a new type of exercise, a creative outlet, or a new area of knowledge. Some of our students have taken on new activities including photography, cycling, skateboarding, running, cooking/baking, helping with home projects, and gardening. Other ideas include learning how to play an instrument or create music, learning how to draw or paint, going through family photos to create new albums or stories, etc.

13.  Create shared positive family time when there are no discussions or reminders about school work - board games, safe walks together outside, movie nights with popcorn, and special meals made and enjoyed together. Encourage and share daily prayers and intentions. This can be before meals or in the morning. Create a moment every day to pray, offer up your hopes, intentions, and struggles to God. Staying connected to Parish life through virtual masses is another way to create structure. https://rcav.org/coronavirus/#streaming.

14.  Set limits on screen time/gaming for entertainment especially now that screen time is so extensive for school. Balance tech time with time outside and in nature, with family, engaged in pleasurable activities and relaxation, and with virtual contact with family, relatives, and family friends. Devices should be removed at a reasonable sleep time each night to ensure adequate sleep without the temptation, which we often see, of very late night messaging. During the day devices can be set up in more visible spaces to allow for monitoring of activities. Do not allow gaming to become the default entertainment option as this will create bigger problems down the road due to the addictive quality of these games.

15.  Encourage your son to practice self-compassion as well as reflection on the things that are going well. Ask your son to tell you the things he has learned about himself during this time, ways he has grown, how he sees things differently, and what changes he would like to maintain once life returns to normal. What are the ‘silver linings’ of this global challenge?

16.  Look for signs of potential mental health challenges: persistent changes in mood (especially depressed mood, anger and/or conflict), withdrawal or isolation from friends and/or family, a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, changes in eating, weight, and/or sleep, a decline in self-care, use of substances including vaping, and/or changes in the ability to concentrate, learning and/or memory. While many of these will appear to some extent during these exceptional times of uncertainty, isolation, and adjustment it is important to follow up, particularly if they are lasting.  Support is available from your family doctor, myself (mbeck@mail.vc.bc.ca), community agencies, and 24/7 help lines such as Kids Help Phone: https://kidshelpphone.ca/ 1-800-668-6868 and the Crisis Centre: https://crisiscentre.bc.ca/  605-310-6789.