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Advice for Parents, and Kids, During ‘Stay Safe, Stay Home’

March 17, 2020

Patricia Rehmer, senior vice president of behavioral health for Hartford HealthCare, offers some advice to parents during the COVID-19 crisis in a visit with WTNH, Channel 8. Here is a lightly edited version of the interview:

Q: Explain to us what you should be saying to our children in the situation.
A: Well, I think the first thing is that sometimes we need to turn the TV off so the little ears aren’t constantly bombarded with what’s going on right now because I think it can be scary for children.

I know that it’s very stressful to have little ones at home certainly adolescence as well. But I do think that we need to give them information but not overload them. Again, sometimes when kids ask a simple question, they want a simple answer. Going into too much detail can be more anxiety-provoking than it’s needed.

Sure, it’s also so important for parents to be taking care of themselves and set an example, but with financial woes and layoffs there’s so much more anxiety.

Q: Where do you start with coping with that? It’s hard because people are feeling somewhat isolated, so what do you do if your home with your kids are as a family because you’re not working?
A: I think again trying to do some things together. The weather wasn’t great this morning, but it’s better now. Going out for walks, keeping the kids busy as much as possible, maybe baking with them or having them help you make a meal. I’ve even gotten some emails from people who are successfully getting their kids to do laundry and clean that house. That’s thrilling for people.

Q: But it really is about also monitoring as an adult your own anxiety because that’s easily something that kids pick up on. If someone has been exposed they self-quarantine. That’s the right thing to do, but that in itself can lead to some mental health issues, correct?
A: Right, isolation in and of itself can lead to depression. We want to make sure, especially our elder patients or elder individuals in the state that are homebound and we’re asking them to stay home. The risk is isolation. So I think reaching out to parents to older adults maybe in your neighborhood, but obviously being careful about that. But I was saying earlier that people need to call their parents. This isn’t the time to just wait for them to call you because isolation can be really difficult and we don’t want people to start abusing substances or to start to get more depressed from what’s going on around them.

Q: This seems like it’s going to be a new normal we’re experiencing. How can you stay positive?
A: Well, I think that’s the challenge right This is not a sprint.  It’s a marathon. So, you know, you can’t spend eight hours today teaching your kids their schoolwork, and then expect to have the energy for that next week. So people really need to pace themselves and to know that this will end at some point and we will come out on the other side of this and that there are resources out there if people need them.

Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.

Click here to schedule a virtual visit with a Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent care doctor.

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