Mental Help for Parents
As parents, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all that we still don’t know about the pandemic. When will our younger kids have access to vaccines? Will masks be required at school, on the bus, during after school activities? Will there even be after school activities? What will our kids’ classrooms and learning be like this year?
At NAMI Delaware, we have seen firsthand the impact of COVID-19. Our work involves support, education, and advocacy statewide for various stakeholders including school communities.
We are bracing for what is likely to be the most challenging school year on record.
While we can’t tell you when the pandemic will end or how it may affect your child’s school experience this year, we can share with you some tips about supporting youth mental health and encouraging resilience in your family.
First, normalize discussions about mental health. In an age-appropriate way, talk about mental health as part of overall health and wellbeing. Just as we encourage a balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep to support physical health, try to encourage noticing and naming big feelings, recognizing signs of emotional distress, and learning healthy coping strategies to support mental health.
It’s okay to not feel okay. Remind your child that we all feel unwell sometimes; it’s part of being human. We can have stomachaches, headaches, skinned knees, broken bones, and more. And while emotional health struggles may be harder to see than physical ones, they are every bit as real and worthy of attention.
Encourage your child to share. Feelings of sadness, loneliness, anger, worry, or fear are common. Talking about these feelings and learning how to cope with them in healthy ways can help reduce the stigma and mystery around mental health concerns and help prevent more significant impact.
Listen without judgment. Encourage your child to share if they are distressed. Listen with curiosity and empathy. Focus on validating their feelings rather than “fixing” their problem, and avoid dismissing or judging their concerns. Instead, allow them to feel heard.
Professionals can help. Sometimes we can heal physical discomforts at home with a kiss and a Band-Aid, and sometimes we need to see a specialist. The same is true when it comes to mental health. There are trained professionals specialized in youth mental health who can help your child work through mental health challenges. If you’re seeing your child continue to struggle, and you think it’s having an ongoing impact on their daily life, reach out for professional help.
Evaluate your own wellness and practice regular self-care. Not only is it incredibly important for you to feel well in order to support your child effectively, modeling healthy self-care can allow your child to develop their own self-care strategies. Consider exploring options that include your child, as well. Schedule regular self-care so it remains a top priority.
Seek out more support and information. NAMI Delaware is here to help. We offer no cost support groups and education programs, and we manage a helpline to assist callers with referrals and resources. Visit namidelaware.org or call 1-888-427-2643.
After a 25-year teaching career, Anne Slease, M.Ed., became Director of Advocacy & Education at National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Delaware in 2017, inspired by her experience as a parent navigating the mental health system and eventually the criminal justice system. She spent many years without adequate support and information to help her family before finding NAMI Delaware. Today, she is a trained facilitator of evidence-based programs on mental health, suicide prevention, and school safety; she serves as panelist, lecturer, and guest speaker on issues related to youth and family mental health and advocacy; and she regularly consults with policy makers to improve the lives of those affected by mental illness in the First State. NAMI Delaware is an independently operated state chapter of NAMI, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization.