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pandemic mental health effect on children

The coronavirus pandemic has thrust families into an extraordinary era that will be life-changing for all of us, with both short and long-term effects on children's well-being.

The disruptions kids are experiencing right now are real: seeing their parents under stress, being isolated from peers and friends and family, being separated from the structure and routine of their school days, seeing people in masks and overhearing unsettling news. Parents are understandably wondering, "Should we be worried about what this is doing to our children's mental health?"

Here's what parents should know about the long-term emotional impact of the pandemic on kids.

Working with children in refugee camps, after natural disasters and in crisis situations such as the terrorist attacks on 9/11, hurricane Katrina, and the tsunami in Southeast Asia, I have found that the best way to help kids cope with crisis is to teach them to recognize, understand and manage their emotions.

An emotional education gives children the building blocks they need to be successful at home, school and on the playground. And teaching children to be smart about their feelings (and the feelings of others) can help alleviate children's emotional stress, improve concentration, boost immune systems and enhance brain development.

Here's how parents can provide an emotional education for kids during this time that will help balance the impact of the pandemic and their long-term mental health.

Be there for them
Past experience has taught us that caring grown-ups in children's lives can make an enormous difference by providing safety, comforting reassurance, age-appropriate information and helpful guidance. Once your child's immediate physical needs have been met, meeting their emotional needs is key to helping them deal with their confusion, anxiety or fear.

Listen, observe + talk
Children may be upset seeing people wearing masks, overhearing anxious conversations, being physically distant from people they care about or having their routine gravely disrupted. Children's reactions will vary, but it's important to observe their behavior while listening carefully to what they are saying.

To quote the beloved Mr. Rogers, "What's mentionable is manageable." Not talking about the pandemic can actually make kids worry more. Acknowledge their concerns, validate their feelings and provide comfort and reassurance. In addition to helping them in the moment, this will foster future conversations about what will happen next. I recently partnered with Scholastic Publishing and the Yale Child Study Center Collaborative for Child Resilience to create First Aid for Families: Helping Kids Cope During the Coronavirus Pandemic, a free resource to help families.

Create a safe space
Emotions are contagious, and when there's a lack of control and predictability it's natural for parents and children to experience stress. Living under one roof and in tight quarters can exacerbate those cooped up feelings.

Stressors can impair learning and developmental growth, making it impossible for a child to concentrate and learn. When stress reaches toxic and sustained levels (which are important to distinguish from tolerable or even positive types of stress), it can actually remap a child's brain.

I suggest designating a safe and comforting corner of your home as a Calming Corner. A child's physical environment can stabilize their life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A Calming Corner can help children regulate their emotions when they become overwhelmed with powerful feelings.

Stay connected with friends + family
Social and emotional learning is an important part of child development. If children learn these skills at an early age, they'll be better equipped to handle the everyday challenges of growing up. Staying connected with their immediate family, friends and extended family members virtually, can be helpful. Whether it's a virtual chat, writing a letter to a pen pal or drawing a picture for a grandparent, the significance of social connections right now cannot be underestimated.

Remind them this will pass
When reassuring children who have worries, you can say, "Lots of very smart doctors and scientists are working hard to figure out how to keep us healthy and safe. And in the not too distant future, you'll be able to go back to school, play sports and go outside and play with your friends, just like you did before. The parks, schools, restaurants and stores will be open, and you'll be able to do the things you enjoy again. And that's a good thing for you to know!"

Here's what parents can do right now to protect their children's long-term emotional health—and their own.

Deal with your own anxiety before speaking with children. Try to remain calm because children will take their cues from you. Seek support from other adults or a counselor.

Meet kids where they are. Assess what your child has heard and begin your conversation there. Provide clear, age-appropriate information. You are their best source for information.

Offer comfort and reassurance of kid's safety. Increase physical contact and affection during times of uncertainty. Talk about all the people that are working hard to keep them safe.

Talk about your own feelings and give children opportunities to express their feelings. All feelings are okay, and they are meant to be shared. Keeping them inside can cause aches and pains.

Teach simple health strategies and stress responses that children can use to take care of themselves. There are numerous techniques to encourage calmness that you can do with your children.

Help children stick to their normal routine. Having a familiar schedule will reduce their stress and increase predictability.

Keep lines of communications open. Some children may want or need more information; others may be better with less. Take your cues from them. Being engaged and available is what matters most!

How can parents help kids get back to normal after the pandemic?

There's good news. Kids will generally "bounce back" if during the pandemic they have received emotional support from caring adults in their lives, and if they've learned resiliency through skills and techniques that help them manage emotional stress, such as yoga, deep breathing and talking to someone. That's why your love and support is so important right now: Calm parents encourage calm children.

As we begin transitioning children back to school and back to a normal routine, it will continue to be important that we provide the necessary emotional support needed for them to thrive. Be available, honest and open, as this will provide them with a sense of connectedness, normalcy and routine.

Advance planning will be important, too. Find out what their school has planned. Monitor your child's adjustment over time. Watch their behavior and listen carefully to what they are saying. Have more than one conversation about what's happening—a child's understanding and questions will change over time.

Some children will want to talk extensively about the pandemic, while others will not want to talk at all. Participating in enjoyable activities is both necessary and beneficial. Children may be more vulnerable if other stressors such as divorce, financial problems were occurring in the family prior to the crisis. They may need extra support and reassurance to feel in control. Thoughts, feelings and behaviors that may follow immediately after the pandemic will evolve and change as life continues.

Childhood is an amazing time of discovery, even during a pandemic. Nearly every moment of a child's life offers opportunities to teach important emotional skills such as caring, listening, empathy, problem-solving, self-regulation and resilience.

These new arrivals from the Motherly Shop are *so* good you need them all

Noodle and Boo, Mushie and Plan Toys—everything you need, mama.

Motherhood is hard work—finding great products and brands to make the journey easier doesn't have to be. Each week, we stock the Motherly Shop with brilliant new products we know you'll need and love from brands and makers that really care.

So, what's new this week?

Noodle and Boo: Holistic baby skin care

Through working with chemists who specialize in natural and holistic skin care, Noodle and Boo has developed exclusive formulas that nourish, replenish and protect especially delicate, eczema-prone and sensitive skin—including laundry detergent. Their signature, obsession-worthy scent—which is subtly sweet, pure and fresh—is the closest thing to bottling up "baby smell" we've ever found.

Mushie: Kids' dinnerware that actually looks great

We're totally crushing on Mushie's minimalist dinnerware for kids. Their innovative baby and toddler products leverage Swedish design to marry both form and function while putting safety front and center. Everything is created in soft, muted colors from BPA-free materials.

Plan Toys: Open-ended toys that last

Corralling and cleaning up the toys becomes less stressful when you bring home fewer, better, more beautiful ones. Plan Toys checks all the boxes. Made from re-purposed rubber wood, they're better for the planet as well.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Mushie silicone baby bib

Mushie silicone baby bib

There's no going back to cloth bibs after falling in love with this Swedish design. The pocket catches whatever misses their mouths and the BPA-free silicone is waterproof and easy to wipe down between uses.

$13

Mushie kids' square dinnerware plate set

Mushie kids' square dinnerware plate set

We're totally crushing on the soft muted colors that flow with our table aesthetics and the thoughtful high-sided design that helps babies and toddler who are learning to feed themselves.

$15

Noodle and Boo nursery essentials kit

Noodle and Boo nursery essentials kit

Stocked with everything a new mama needs to care for her little one's delicate skin, Noodle and Boo's nursery essentials gift set is the perfect way to create a holistic and natural skin care routine from day one.

$45

Plan Toys doctor set 

Plan Toys doctor set

Ideal for quiet time and imaginative role play, we love the gorgeous planet-friendly doctor kit from Plan Toys. The rubber wood stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, syringe and reflex hammer pack up neat and tidy into the red cotton case should they need to dash off on a rescue mission.

$30

Noodle and Boo instant hand sanitizer

Noodle and Boo instant hand sanitizer

Since we're buying and using hand sanitizer by the truckload these days, we're thrilled Noodle and Boo has made one we can feel good about using on little ones who cram their hands in their mouths 24/7. Not only does it kill 99.9% of germs, but it also leaves hands moisturized as well.

$10

Plan Toys natural wooden blocks set

Plan Toys natural wooden blocks set

A toy box isn't complete without a set of blocks—and this set is one of our new favorites. The sustainable, re-purposed wood is eco-friendly, comes at a relatively affordable price point and are certain to last well beyond multiple kids, hand-me-downs and even generations.

$30

Noodle and Boo family fun pack cleansing set

Noodle and Boo family fun pack cleansing set

Because their products were developed for delicate and eczema-prone skin, Noodle and Boo's full line of skin care has become a favorite among those with sensitive skin of all ages. This set is the perfect way to pamper the entire family.

$48

Mushie kids' round dinnerware bowl set

Mushie kids' round dinnerware bowl set

No need to sacrifice safety or design with the sustainable dinnerware from Mushie. Their minimalist, functional dishes are perfect for serving up meals and snacks to your tablemates who might hurl it to the floor at any point. They're made in Denmark from BPA-free polypropylene plastic mamas can feel good about and dishwasher and microwave-safe as well.

$14

Plan Toys geo stacking blocks

Plan Toys geo stacking blocks

The best engaging, open-ended toys are the ones that are left out and available, inviting little (and big!) ones to play. These beautiful gem-like blocks make for addicting coffee table play for the entire family.

$30

Plan Toys wooden green dollhouse

Plan Toys wooden green dollhouse

Energy-efficient design isn't just for grown-up real estate. This green dollhouse includes a wind turbine, a solar cell panel, electric inverter, recycling bins, a rain barrel, a biofacade and a blind that can adjust the amount of sunlight and air circulation along with minimalist furniture we'd totally love to have in our own houses.

$250

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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14 sweet 'just thinking of you' gifts for every mama

A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs.

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.

$70

Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.

$65

Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.

$45

Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!

$23

Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.

$30

Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.

$39

'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."

$35

Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.

$24

Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.

$22

Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!

$25

Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.

$32

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.

$105

Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.

$17

Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.

$68

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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In Montessori schools, parents are periodically invited to observe their children at work in the classroom. I have heard many parents express shock to see their 3- or 4-year-old putting away their own work when they finish—without even being asked!

"You should see his room at home!" or, "I ask him to put his toys away every day, and it's a battle every single time" were frequent comments.

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