Helping Children Navigate COVID-19, Tips From Bergen New Bridge Medical Center’s Top Doc | #covid19 | #kids | #childern

PARAMUS, NJ – COVID-19 has forced us all to navigate entirely new, at times tragic, and altogether terrifying situations. Whatever we’re facing, children are facing it as well.

Illise R. Perlmutter, MD, Chair of Psychiatry at Bergen New Medical Center, addressed this global crisis in her lecture, “What Do We Say to the Kids? The Pandemic at Five Months.” Dr. Perlmutter offered advice on explaining the pandemic to children, and determining whether their behavior is “normal,” plus she provided some vital resources.

One of her main points? Limit media consumption, for adults and children alike.

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Dr. Perlmutter’s lecture offered advice regarding children of specific age groups and how to best approach speaking with each. The message she intended for all children, ranging from infants to adolescents, was,

  • “reassure them that they are safe,
  • make time to listen and talk,
  • keep explanations developmentally appropriate,
  • limit media exposure,
  • and maintain a routine.”

While these are techniques that can comfort children and help them cope, they are no less valuable to keep in mind when it comes to ourselves.

How do parents know whether their child is reacting normally? After all, everyone handles stress and change differently. Dr. Perlmutter lays out the typical behaviors children may exhibit during these unprecedented times.

“Children and teens will experience regression, diminished academic performance, aggression, and self-blame when there are disruptions in schedules and routines, and they feel fear and a lack of safety,” Dr. Perlmutter said.

This information can be useful to measure children against the norm and help parents determine what steps to take. For example, Dr. Perlmutter explains that parents should pay special attention to children who are preoccupied with questions and concerns beyond what would be natural, who exhibit behavioral changes including recurring fears, and/or intrusive thoughts. These children may benefit from being seen by a mental health professional. 

Dr. Perlmutter ended her lecture by providing a list of resources parents may utilize during this very trying time. Check out https://www.cstsonline.org/, https://www.aacap.org/ and https://www.psychiatry.org/ as per Dr. Perlmutter’s suggestion, and stay safe.


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