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How can parents help kids navigate continued uncertainty?

Mental health advocates are warning of the possible impact that limited social interaction and months of isolation can have on child development. (PHOTO: KSL File)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Mental health advocates are warning of the possible impact that limited social interaction and months of isolation can have on child development. Thankfully, they say parents can help their kids navigate all the uncertainty.

A new normal?

A return to school or sports, doesn’t necessarily mean a return to normalcy. Child psychiatrists and counselors warn the past handful of months may have done some serious damage to certain kid’s self-image.

“Kids are grieving not being able to do the things that they were used to doing,” explains Taryn Hiatt, with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Playing sports or having graduations in the spring.”

She says it’s hard for anyone to navigate these uncertain times, especially for someone younger, still developing socially and emotionally. To help with that, she says parents need to encourage dialogue and create a sense of togetherness.

“Just making sure that we’re creating safe spaces to listen and reassure them,” she says. “Again, remind them that we’re all in this together.”

Cheering section of parents

Tom Golightly, a professor at BYU and licensed psychologist, agrees that a positive adult influence in a child’s life is more important now than ever.

“Being consistent with that care, that love, that support, that cheering-section, so to speak,” is important he says.

In fact, he thinks right now can be an opportunity for parents and children to find new common interests with one another. Maybe for parents, it’s a chance to take even more of an interest in what their kids like doing.

“Finding those activities that we enjoy,” explains Golightly. “That will bring us fulfillment and happiness and meaning.”

Like always, he says parents should watch for changes in their kids behavior and talk to them about how they feel if something seems off.

Thursday is World Suicide Prevention Day. A reminder that the 24-hour suicide prevention hotline number is 800-273-8255.