COLLEG PARK, Ga. - Now that all Georgia public schools are shut down for at least two weeks, many parents are having to explain to their kids why there's no school. Dr. Sharnell Myles, a child trauma specialist at JoyUs Beginnings, said as kids are kept inside for days on end, it can increase their anxiety. One way to stop that: reach out to a counselor via telemedicine to get advice without leaving your home. And beyond that, Dr. Myles said there are many things parents can do to help calm their children during this time.
The first step Dr. Myles suggests: start a conversation with your child using words they already know about how they can play a role in family activities and schedules while they are home. Parents can focus on the positives of staying healthy and make good hygiene a family project. If your child is struggling to verbalize their feelings, ask them to draw or do a craft activity to express themselves.
"I told one parent, 'Tell your kids, instead of saying 'wash your hands or else,' say 'hey, three times a day you're in charge of the soap dispenser, make sure it's full, and we will wash our hands as a family," said Myles.
Next, keep a routine as much as possible. Myles suggests planning time for schoolwork, designated family time with games or activities inside, and time for children to reach out to their friends via social media so they don't feel isolated.
"You can have playdates, virtual playdates," said Myles.
Myles said it's important not to let your kids play outside unsupervised because when more kids are home, there's an increased risk for human trafficking.
"If those children are walking the street, they're more likely to be approached by someone who means them harm," said Myles. "So we want to keep kids occupied and healthy," she said.
Myles said giving children freedom in other ways, like helping make the dinner menu or family schedule, will help keep them calm while at home.
"As we tell adults don't panic, we don't want our children to panic," said Myles about leading by example.
Myles encourages all families to reach out to her and speak with a counselor online. You can contact JoyUs Beginnings CFWC at 404-496-3829.
For other mental health resources for your children, click HERE.