We recently spoke with Christine Stille, NP, a member of our Pediatrics Department at our Holden office, to learn more about what parents can do to help their children deal with the problems and stresses they face today. Almost a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s no secret that many families are having a hard time. Fortunately, learning some effective techniques can be beneficial anytime, not just during a pandemic.
Q: Many families are struggling with learning issues during the Covid-19 pandemic. What advice can you give to make things better?
Parents should provide a solid framework for learning, including a reasonable schedule for getting schoolwork done on-time each day. Parents should also make sure each child has a place to work that’s quiet, comfortable, and free from distractions. Collaborating with your child’s teacher can also make a difference. Parents need to be aware if their child is falling behind for some reason. Your child’s teacher can also tell you to what degree you should be checking and correcting your child’s schoolwork. Each child is different and you have to learn what level of interaction works best for your child.
Q: How can parents provide more support for their kids now?
Children really benefit from routines and schedules. It starts with waking up at the same time every day and making sure you stick to regular studying, socializing and eating routines. It’s also important to make daily routines fun, such as having a night set aside for pizza and a movie or having a game night. Routines help alleviate anxiety in children because a routine gives them things they can expect and count on. This is particularly true during times when children are feeling a lot of anxiety. We are almost a year into this pandemic and structured routines that parents put in place months ago may be starting to wane. Don’t stop now!
Q: How severe do you think children’s stress levels are now?
Most pediatricians believe that the number one problem for children under the age of 18 are mental health disorders. Covid-19 has only made that worse because the pandemic is a chronic stressor with no end in sight that is affecting not just children but entire families. Parents have to take the lead in helping their children adapt to stress in order to keep them healthier. (Note: you can learn more at this link about helping your children deal with stress.)
Q: Is it possible to make your children better at overcoming the different problems they encounter?
Yes, your parenting style can make a difference. We know that helicopter parenting, or hovering over your children constantly and then intervening, is counter-productive to helping them grow. Parents should provide strong support for their children but as the child grows older slowly take away that support so the child can start to face challenges on their own without them. This type of parenting can make your children more resilient and self-reliant.
Q: So rushing into fix things all the time is not a good idea?
No, assuming there is not a safety issue, parents need to stand back a bit and let their children make mistakes and learn from them. Some children can think they are inadequate if their parents jump in and help them all the time. However, parents should make a point to reward effort even when their children fail. Not everyone can excel at everything they want to do but we can all learn from the experience.
Q: What can parents do to make their children behave better?
All children will misbehave at times to a certain degree. That’s why it’s important to reinforce positive behavior whenever you see it. Kids will sometimes act up just to get attention. Giving them attention for the good things that they do helps minimize that. Positive reinforcement can really make a difference in the long run. Losing your temper and yelling at your kids really isn’t effective and sets a bad example for them.
Q: Will children have long-lasting effects from the pandemic?
It’s possible some will. One of the potential problems associated with the current situation is that children who are learning out of school are not involved in the diverse interactions they enjoyed when attending school each day. Things such as working on projects with other students and dealing with competition, including trying out for a sports team or the lead in school play. Without these experiences, children are missing out on what helps them learn, develop and grow. That’s been one of the most difficult aspects of the pandemic and it will take time to understand all the ramifications of it.
The links below from offer some additional tips and advice on parenting during this difficult time:
About Christina Stille, NP
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Boston College, Christina has worked in Pediatrics since 1999. Christina enjoys working closely with children and their families to maintain and improve their health. “I value the entire family input to keep kids healthy or help them get better,” she explains. “The continuity of care in primary care is critical and for that reason I wanted to touch families’ lives year after...View profile View posts by this doctor