A child and adolescent psychiatrist in Williams Lake said some parents and children in the community are exhibiting fear and anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is especially the case for people who already deal with anxiety,” Dr. Matt Burkey told the Tribune Wednesday.
A second issue he’s hearing about is the change of routines for children now that school has been cancelled indefinitely.
“Children will not have the activities they look forward to or are used to participating in scheduled, as well as their social outlets. That’s a big thing. It causes a lot of worry.”
Burkey said a lot of services that normally support families are being affected because workers are having to stay home or there is service disruption in terms of face-to-face groups and sessions.
“That is going to impact families around the province,” Burkey said.
Offering advice, he suggested parents talk with their children about COVID-19, answer their questions in a way they can understand and provide reassurance they are safe.
“I think another one is remembering to do other things and not just check for news updates all the time,” he added. “Limiting exposure to the news a bit is a good thing.”
Keeping up with regular routines is also important for parents.
“With schools being closed, it will be a good idea to create schedules as much as you can for doing things, relaxing together, and finding some other ways to build in some structure.”
He recommended the Kelty Mental Health site at www.keltymentalhealth.ca as a good resource and said there will be some COVID-19 specific information added in the coming days.
“They have a lot of good information,” he said of the site.
Being a role model for children is also key, Burkey said.
“Parents need to take breaks, get sleep, take care of themselves and stay connected with friends and family, even if it’s by phone or Skype. It’s difficult to take care of your children when you are feeling stressed.”
As a parent, himself, he said his own children are still in the ‘honeymoon stage’ of being excited that spring break has been extended.
“Nothing has really hit home too hard yet, but our kids still have questions and are noticing things are different.”
A lot of families are already under stress and COVID-19 is adding more stress in terms of finances and child care.
“It’s not just about ‘will I get infected or not?”
Burkey encouraged everyone to stick with credible information sources that talk about symptoms and the status of the outbreak if they have concerns about their own health.
Burkey has been in Williams Lake since 2016 and works out of the Cariboo Chilcotin Child Development Centre and at Child and Youth Mental Health.