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Helping kids cope during physical distancing

Posted at 10:19 PM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 00:19:08-04

SALT LAKE CITY – Many families are concerned about the mental health of their children, as so many unexpected changes are happening due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Heather Finlinson of Sandy is a mother of four children. She has noticed changes in their demeanor since school buildings were shuttered and activities came to an end.

“It’s been really hard,” Heather said. “My 14-year-old went from being – she was going to dance three times per week. Now she wants to lay in bed all the time.”

Heather’s children are heavily involved in dance and other events with their friends. She has noticed their motivation has decreased amid all the life changes.

“I ask her to practice dance and she’s like, what’s the point mom, they are just going to be canceled,” Heather said. “It’s so hard just to watch your kids be so sad.”

Now, her kids spend time on the phone to stay connected with their peers.

“I don’t care if they are on the phone all day long, from first thing in the morning when they wake up until they go to sleep, I don’t care,” Heather said.

Mental health experts say it is perfectly acceptable to allow kids to spend more time on their electronic devices if it helps them navigate through this difficult time.

“We have been encouraging parents to let things go. This is a completely unforeseen, unusual circumstance,” said Dr. Douglas Goldsmith, a psychologist who has been practicing for more than three decades.

With the summer approaching, he worries families will face even more challenges as kids have more time on their hands.

“Parents are going to have to anticipate how are we going to do activities when we may not go on family vacations,” he said. “They are going to have to think outside of the box with activities.”

Keeping kids active will help stimulate their minds while giving them a positive outlook about the future.

“If you can’t go to camp, we are going to do camp stuff as a family and sleep in the backyard and cook smores on the fireplace,” Dr. Goldsmith said. “Parents can talk about, let’s learn how to make something for the kitchen. Let’s do something exciting for the neighborhood.”

If you notice emotional changes in your children and you are worried about their safety, contact a mental health professional.