May 5, 2021
Doctors Produce Flyer Offering Parents Awareness, Coping Tips
Texas physicians have unveiled a new tool to help parents support their children whose behavioral health is suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s upheaval.
The Texas Medical Association’s (TMA’s) School Reopening Workgroup, the Texas Pediatric Society (TPS), and members of TMA’s Committee on Behavioral Health produced “Your Child’s Feelings Matter,” a resource in English and Spanish to help parents recognize and support their children’s reactions to school disruptions and other changes the pandemic has forced upon their young lives.
“School closures, virtual learning, change in routine, and social isolation have taken a physical and mental toll on [children’s] emotional wellbeing,” the flyer reads.
“The past year, family routines have been disrupted, children had less contact with many typical relationships such as friends and grandparents, families have dealt with illness and quarantines, and many parents are juggling caring for their children while working from home,” said Valerie Smith, MD, chair of the TMA School Reopening Workgroup and member of the TPS executive board. The Tyler pediatrician who also cochairs TMA’s Subcommittee on Behavioral Health, said, “We are seeing more children exhibit symptoms of anxiety and depression under these additional strains, such as irritability, isolating, or even aggression.
“Parents are the most critical relationship children have. Supporting children when they are struggling and helping them develop healthy coping mechanisms is key to children thriving.”
Texas children are experiencing more anxiety, depression, and even threat of suicide because of the many disturbances to normalcy everyone has faced since the pandemic began in early 2020. Pediatricians, family physicians, and psychiatrists have seen the effects of increased stress in their young patients, and they say parents can help their kids.
The physicians felt compelled to take action to guide parents in comforting their children adversely affected by the pandemic.
“This flyer attempts to help parents and families recognize all of the signs that there may be trouble while also reviewing the many resources they have available to them to help,” said Seth D. Kaplan, MD, TPS president and a Frisco pediatrician.
“Dealing with behavioral and mental health issues can feel overwhelming to parents and families, but small steps in the right direction can make a big difference in children's lives.”
Even increased irritability and mood swings can indicate children are feeling increased stress from changes in their life. The guide recommends parents recognize these changes and if necessary, seek help from the child’s doctor, counselors, or even clergy.
The flyer lists behaviors ranging from content, happy attitudes to angry, meltdown reactions, and recommendations to cope including breathing exercises, music, or counseling.
“We hope to empower parents and families to recognize the signs of trouble early and feel confident in knowing how to reach out for help,” said Dr. Kaplan.
“We hope that this tool provides some concrete steps parents can take to help support their children,” Dr. Smith said, “and to help parents connect with the support services that their physicians and community can provide.”
Dr. Kaplan added, “Certain children have been particularly affected, and we want to make sure that their families have resources directed specifically towards their needs.”
In addition to listing resources parents can consult for guidance on helping children navigate stress from COVID-19, the flyer also provides links for help with anxiety from racism or sexual orientation issues.
TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 55,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.
TPS, the Texas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, is the premier state professional nonprofit organization of over 4,500 Texas pediatricians and medical students. TPS believes that the most important resource of the State of Texas is its children and pledges its efforts to promote their health and welfare.
Brent Annear (TMA); (512) 656-7320
Marcus Cooper (TMA); (512) 650-5336
Tricia Hall (TPS); (512) 370-1506