If a year of COVID has left you feeling tired, lacklustre and decidedly “over it”, you’ll have noticed it’s affected your children’s mental health too. Here, Dr Vanessa Von Auer, Clinical Psychologist and Founding Principal of Integrated International School (IIS), shares advice for families to help navigate these tough times.
“As the global situation continues with no clear end in sight, many people are experiencing a feeling of burnout known as Pandemic Fatigue or ‘COVID Fatigue’,” explains Dr Vanessa. “This may manifest as low mood or energy, hopelessness or feelings of frustration, irritability and restlessness.”
What are the signs of COVID Fatigue we should look for in our children?
Examples include not wanting to socialise with friends, withdrawing into themselves, and being worried about them or their loved ones contracting COVID-19. If you notice your child’s energy levels are low, or their quality of life and day-to-day behaviours have changed, try to support their psycho-social and emotional wellbeing.
How can we speak to them about what they’re going through?
Provide age-appropriate, factual information about Covid Fatigue to prevent their imagination filling in the gaps, which could be scary or overly negative. Explaining that many people are experiencing similar symptoms helps them understand their own feelings are “normal”.
What can we do to lift children up?
- Allow them to express their feelings and empathise with them. Encourage them to be open – answer their questions to keep confusion and anxiety at bay.
- Identify the “good stuff” that has come from the pandemic – spending more time together, staycations, exploring Singapore’s hidden gems, and so on.
- Teach self-help tools so your children feel empowered during a negative moment. Deep breathing, mindfulness exercises, kids’ yoga, dancing, or some kind of unique activity like acrylic art pouring are all fun to try.
- Ensure your children stay connected with friends and family members in person through safe playdates and get-togethers.
How can we support older teenagers as they experience a lack of routine and missed events and education?
- Keep communication open. Answer questions factually and normalise what they’re feeling.
- Be flexible. Allow them to spend time online connecting with their friends, or using devices for entertainment and learning.
- Open your house up to your teen’s friends so they can engage in activities in person.
- Encourage them to be innovative in their spare time. They could enrol in an online pre-uni course, find a part-time job from home, or partake in volunteer work.
- Encourage your teen to start a “gratitude journal”. This will help them identify the positives in their lives and assist with challenging the negatives.
What can we do together as a family to survive COVID Fatigue?
Maintain a daily schedule that gives every family member a sense of control. Infuse novelty through creativity or by engaging in something completely new; for example, play your child’s favourite song to lure them into an impromptu “dance-off”. Little surprises of family fun will help everyone’s mental health.
How do we as parents cut ourselves some slack during this time?
Take care of your physical and psychological wellbeing by getting some “me time”. Exercise helps your body and mind unwind and provides a change of scenery. Learn something new – try a course or create some art. And engage in relaxation techniques to remain grounded, present and keep anxious behaviours at bay.
If your child’s mood doesn’t improve, seek professional help from a psychologist.
For further information, visit iis.edu.sg.