Education Spotlight: How parents can help kids' mental, emotional well-being during the pandemic

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- In ABC30's segment, Education Spotlight, Action News Anchor Landon Burke will talk with Merced County Office of Education (MCOE) officials about some of the biggest topics in education.

As school districts continue with remote learning, many students are missing support structures vital to their mental and emotional well-being. Landon Burke spoke with Genevieve Valentine, director of the Merced County Behavioral Health Resource Center, about how parents can help their kids thrive in this time of uncertainty.

Landon: What have you noticed about student health and well being in the midst of the pandemic?

Genevieve: I think the biggest thing that we've failed to acknowledge is that youth really need natural supports. And because of the fact that they don't have their teachers, they don't have coaches. They don't have the advocacy that they would have outside of their homes. That they don't have those supportive adults, really helping them guide them. There's this new sense of, 'only the parent is the role model,' because we haven't really focused in on the need of 'people needing people', and sometimes we need people even outside of our homes. That our youth are not thriving, the way they normally would because they don't have those natural supports and I think this gives our parents, a really good opportunity to become superheroes for their kids. In reality, when we have those superheroes and our youth really get to see that our parents as superheroes. They're going to be in a better situation. I think we also failed to realize the value of milestones. We live in a really dark world right now, and it's a sad world, and we need our parents to really help our youth find joy, but our parents need to find joy, too. So that can be simply talking to your kids, hugging your kids, helping them thrive. And I think if we don't, we are going to have a longer-term mental health problem. We need to remind our parents so they can be superheroes, and, you know, sometimes the best superpower is hugs.

Landon: So what other ways can parents help?

Genevieve: For me, my mom always said 'L.O.V.E.' was the most important thing and when she said 'love' she didn't necessarily mean just 'love.' She meant, you listen, you observe, you validate, and you empower. So when we listen to our kids, we actually really hear what they're saying. We can acknowledge how they're feeling. If we're observing them, we actually kind of see how their behaviors are changing. We also need to validate their feelings, you know, it's OK to be angry, it's OK to miss your friends, and then we empower them. What are the things that are making them happy right now? Is it learning how to cook, is it going outside shooting hoops? Empower them to do those things because we need that. I think what we also need to do is be actually present with our children. We may be in the home with them, but that doesn't necessarily mean we're present with them. Go help them clean their rooms. It's OK to do it as a team activity. Check it on their homework. Yes, we have this belief that just go ahead and send it via zoom or they have that human content. But they still need their homework checked. Take them fishing. Let's teach them things that are traits. So to go out and fish with your kids, go for walks with them, teach them that family recipe that you wish your grandma would have taught you. So I think if we really start doing activities, the togetherness, Parents can really help their children thrive. Being able to really help them. Reconnect is really the best way parents can help them right now.

Click here for some helpful resources from the Merced County Department of Behavioral Health and Wellness.
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