It’s been a tough year, not only for adults dealing with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, but for kids, too. A new series of virtual talks aims to help parents help kids cope.
Mental Health Partners is hosting biweekly presentations for parents to learn about the impact COVID-19 can have on children’s mental health and ways to respond to their needs throughout the pandemic.
The organizers have hosted monthly presentations since November 2020, according to Jen Nelson, child and family specialist and Mental Health Partners and facilitator, and, due to high demand, more dates have been added to the rotation, which is set to be completed in June.
The next virtual presentation is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The presentations are designed to educate parents and caregivers on the impact that adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, can have on the well-being of children and their future, Nelson said, adding the pandemic exacerbates such impact.
“We recognize that children who have more adverse childhood experiences, tend to have more difficulties in their life, such as difficulties being successful in school or at their jobs, they have more instances of drug abuse and alcohol use, have more difficulty with strained relationship with people, chronic stress, all kinds of things,” she said.
“(Experts) are talking about how COVID 19 can be one of those ACEs and this presentation gives information on ways parents and other caregivers support children and mitigate risks associated with ACEs.”
Anyone is invited to participate but the presentation is specifically geared toward parents, caregivers or service providers working directly with children, including schools and day care centers staff, she said.
While the information on ACEs is particularly important for families with children younger than 12, the pandemic has created added concern for children in the middle and high school age range, according to Nelson.
“What we are seeing right now is a lot of teens experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety, more so than younger children,” she said. “The presentation includes strategies for parents of older children.”
Studies show the absence of structure settings, such as school, lead to routine disruptions, boredom, and lack of engagement among school-age children. Confinement and other pandemic-related stressors can lead to feelings of sadness, anxiety and fear.
COVID-19 also has taken its toll on parents of children younger than 18.
Parents are experiencing significantly higher levels of stress compared to adults with no children, especially as it relates to children’s education, basic needs, access to health care services and concerns about missing out on major milestones, according to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, .
“Anxiety among children (and parents) has increased a lot,” Nelson said. “Stress levels are three times higher than what they were pre-COVID.”
Attendance numbers for the Mental Health Partners presentations have exceeded expectations since they rolled out late last year, according to Nelson, with more than 140 people registering for the Feb. 12 presentation.
“We have a number of Zooms and presentations, from psychological education to groups supporting parents in various ways, and this one has had one of the higher responses,” she said. “Every time we put it on, more people register … It is obviously speaking to something going on in our communities.”
Jessica Klinger, evaluation and fiscal specialist at Mental Health Partners, said the community response to the presentations has been overwhelmingly positive, with 100% of attendees saying the event was helpful and the information is something they will use in their daily lives.
One attendee said, “I am newly sober and working hard on my recovery and we have moved three times in the last year so there have been a tremendous amount of stressors in my life, my husband’s life, and the lives of our children. The content presented today is exactly what I needed to hear/learn more about, and there haven’t been many resources … that provide guidance to us parents of how to navigate the ‘lifestyle’ COVID has created for us.”
The talks are hosted and provided by the Colorado Spirit outreach team, tasked with providing support and resources to individuals in Boulder and Broomfield Ccounties who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and funded by the Colorado Spirit Crisis Counseling and Training Program, a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment initiative.
Registration is required for the free virtual events, which are scheduled at 6 p.m. every other Tuesday and 1 p.m. every other Friday.
Learn more and register
To find a list of providers working under the state’s Colorado Spirit Crisis Counseling and Training Program, click here.