MAY 18, 2020
How is Your Child’s Mental Health?
Sometimes we take for granted that our little ones are oblivious of what is going on in the world. We think they are happy in their own little world. But I just want to ask you, how is your child’s mental health? I had to stop and ask that myself the other day when my eight-year-old son just started crying out of the blue and I couldn’t figure out why he was crying. Then it hit me that he is stressed out about all that is going on around him and doesn’t know how to process this difficult time. Most of his regular ways of processing have been interrupted. He can’t just talk to his friends or play-act at the playground with other children. He was stuck.
As a mom and a family counselor, I knew that we had to keep our family running as normal as possible. We try to keep bedtimes at the same time, mealtimes at regular times, and our schooling has moved on as normal as well. I have also spent extra time with him playing games, reading, walking, and just playing with him. But it wasn’t enough.
He has been really great during this difficult time. He understands that he can’t go anywhere or play with his friends. But does he really understand why? I am guessing no. He is lonely and he doesn’t know how to solve that problem. He doesn’t have siblings near his age to play with. He gets to play Minecraft with his adult siblings sometimes in the evenings, but they have their own lives and only one is in our home temporarily, so he’s lonely. He gets to have a conversation with the next-door neighbors and their kids, but he can’t play with them, (lonely). That is a lot for an 8-year-old to process and I completely missed this.
Our children are lonely for their friends and regular play, and sadly it took me a while to realize it. Are your children lonely? Do they cry out of the blue or get easily angry? Are they withdrawn and have no desire to do things they enjoy? Are they clingy for attention or overly fearful? Or is your child needing alone time, because there is just too much family around? If you answered yes to any of these then your child’s mental health needs to be a concern.
So what can you do? I had to think about this. For our family, we will continue to let him talk to his siblings over the phone or through Zoom. I keep him updated on how his friends are doing and will try to schedule some FaceTime with them. I will spend extra quality time with him. We also got him a pet, a very cute hamster that he can talk to and play with. Hopefully having something furry and cute to hang out with will help his loneliness and strengthen his mental health. The delight on his face when he got his furry little friend was truly priceless.
For many families, loneliness may not be a problem. There are siblings to play with and /or have pets already then children have someone to play and talk with. However, for families where there is always someone around, just make sure each child has their own private space to go to if they need it.
This is a difficult time for everyone, not just adults. Just be aware just as we have to take care of our own mental health – we need to be aware of our child’s mental health. Take a minute today to have a chat and spend some time with your child to understand just how they are coping!
For more information on this topic, listen to the Homeschooling and Loving It Podcast: Dealing with Anxiety in our Children.
More about the author:
My name is Kimberly Smith and I have been homeschooling for over 16 years. I have been married for 25 years, have four children ages 6, 18, 20, 22, and currently live in Central Pennsylvania. I have a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy and am certified with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. My three oldest have graduated from homeschooling and are currently in college or doing online learning. I am starting the journey of homeschooling again with my six year old.