Youth and families are currently impacted by a variety of stressful events outside of their control. Changes in normal routines, limited social interaction with friends and families, and missed significant life events can all increase the stress and anxiety children and families are feeling.
Youth may not be fully able to communicate what they are feeling, so it important for families members to support each other and to be on the lookout for signs that youth are struggling.
University of Illinois Extension 4-H youth educators Judy Schmidt and Emily Schoenfelder are providing information and resources to help families navigate important conversations, spark new family experiences, and provide valuable information to help support youth and families. Weekly updates are shared via Connection Corner blog, extension.illinois.edu/blogs/connection-corner, and on the U of I Extension Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit Facebook page.
“We share information and resources from a variety of researched based sources,” explained Schmidt. “Some very important information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is strategies from their Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum that families can use at home to help family members cope.”
- Talk to your child about the COVID-19 pandemic. Assure them that they are safe, and that things will return to a new normal in the future.
- Try to maintain a routine. Create a schedule with learning times, regular meals, and fun activities to keep kids engaged while at home.
- Monitor media consumption. Kids are always listening, so try to limit the amount of exposure you give them to news coverage. Be sure to talk with them about things they see or hear that may be scary for them or something they don’t understand.
- Encourage your child to try something new that interests them.Help them learn a new skill, try a new art or craft, research some cool science activities you can do at home.
- Maintain family and other social ties.Stay connected with family and friends through phone and video calls regularly. Send a note to family members or become pen pals with a friend who you can’t see right now.
- Be a role model. Practice stress management and breathing techniques. If you are calm and confident about the situation, your child is likely to be too.
The Connection Corner blog can assist families in implementing many of the strategies suggested by the CDC to help families cope with their stress and anxiety. The blog includes topics such as outdoor family activities, journaling, family conversation starters, breathing exercises and more.
You can also find many activities you can do at home with your family at 4-h.org/about/4-h-at-home/. The CDC also has a vast number of resources on supporting parents and teens during COVID. You can find them here: adolescenthealth.org/COVID-19/COVID-19-Resources-for-Parents-and-Teens.
The Illinois 4-H program has a wide variety of events and activities that youth and families can get involved with together. Learn more at extension.illinois.edu.