submitted by Laura Cruz, Ph.D., Psychologist
Youth Services Department Residential Treatment & Family Counseling Division, Education & Training Center
With schools and places for social gatherings closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the roles that parents and caregivers must play in the lives of their children have significantly changed. Many parents are forced to now juggle teleworking and homeschooling. Meanwhile, other caregivers struggle to maintain their children’s entertainment and safety at home. This is a challenging time for all parents that requires flexibility, compassion, and creativity. The following tips can help.
Model appropriate behavior for children. Children learn by watching and reenacting what they see from the adults in their lives. Some behaviors adults should model for children during this time include explaining and practicing social distancing, engaging in good hygiene practices, focusing on the positives, and maintaining a balanced daily routine that includes scheduled time for work as well as time for self-care.
Label praise your child’s good behaviors. As children try to adapt to changes in their routine, they may exhibit an increase in misbehaviors. For instance, some children might have difficulty staying seated, following directions, or paying attention while engaging in distance learning. This usually causes caregivers to increase the negative interactions they have with children, often telling them “no” or “stop.” Instead, refocus your attention and look for the instances that children are exhibiting the right behaviors. Label praise them by telling them exactly what you like about their behavior. This will increase the likelihood that children will demonstrate these good behaviors more often. Examples of label praises might include telling your child, “I like how nicely you are sitting,” or “good job paying attention,” or “thank you for listening.”
Shift from punishing your child to allowing them to earn privileges. When misbehaviors increase, parents often resort to punishing their children by removing privileges. During a time of self-isolation and social distancing, it can be difficult to leave children without privileges that can be used for entertainment and independent play. Instead of taking away a privilege each time your child misbehaves, encourage children to earn a privilege each day by meeting 2-3 positively worded expectations. For instance, each day your child makes their bed and starts their remote learning on time, they can earn 15 minutes of tablet use or free play on the computer. For older children, expectations might include completing their required school assignments for the day in order to earn 60 minutes of smart phone use.
Monitor your child’s mental health. Children are resilient and with the support of their parents and caregivers, many will be able to manage any concerns including worrying, inattention, distractibility, sadness, and difficulty concentrating. Some children, however, may have risk factors that might lead to more difficulties managing concerns, including previous mental health problems, exposure to traumatic experiences, instability in their home environment, or the loss of a loved one.
For additional support, families with children between the ages of 0-22 can contact the Youth Services Department’s Education & Training Center for free telemental health services by calling 561-233-4460 or visiting our