Helping Kids and Families Emerge During and Beyond the Pandemic 

By Tina Jenkins Bell 
BAPA School Liaison 

Clinical psychologist Mirjam Quinn, founder of Mirjam Quinn Associates, 10801 S. Western, recognizes the upheaval that the pandemic has caused in the lives of everyone, from parents, to educators, to kids. Quinn encourages everyone to be mindful and considerate of each other. She says this may sound simple, but it’s effective in several ways.  

The pandemic put an edge to most people’s lives in ways they had never considered.  

“We didn’t have a framework for the trauma and upheaval caused by the epidemic, and even when we have had upsets, we have always had each other to deal with those issues. But even the ability to depend on each other has been taken away to some extent due the pandemic realities, like isolation and social distancing,” Quinn said. . “Working from home or getting groceries delivered means missing out on those casual human interactions that research shows is so important for feeling like you are connected to a larger community, which in turn improves emotional wellbeing.” 

Most people like predictability and embrace the stability that the pandemic was partially responsible for undermining.  

Quinn said the pandemic hit when other things were etching away at that stability that most adults need to function. The political landscape also added to the strain. 

“These experiences of constantly being confronted with really difficult and traumatic parts of our existence added to the isolation and life and death uncertainties presented by the pandemic, exponentially increasing stress for many people, particularly parents, educators, and youth.” 

Quinn said, kids were really impacted. “Think about it,” she said. “Kids have little control over what happens in their lives and then you throw in the pandemic and uncertainty over the basic things they could expect and anticipate, like attending school,” she said.  

The pandemic still shifts everyday realities, but Quinn said it does not have to continue to wreak havoc to our mental health.  

Quinn mentioned her 92-year-old grandfather as an example of living in the present. He is living alone in Germany and lived through the trauma of World War II.  Quinn said, “In the beginning, I really worried about how he was faring through all of this [the pandemic], and I would ask him, ‘What are you going to do if things shut down completely or you can’t get to the store to buy food?’ He told me not to worry because if things shut down, he could always drive to the next farm to trade for potatoes and other things he needed.” 

Quinn’s grandfather’s attitude is that upheavals are bound to happen and when they do, he would deal with them. In the meantime, he intended to live happily. Like Quinn’s grandfather, kids are resilient and primed for living in the present.  

Quinn offers the following suggestions for getting through and beyond the pandemic with our emotional and mental health intact:  

Be patient with each other. Everyone is carrying more emotional, financial, and work-related concerns and weight than they normally would. Give others, particularly our kids, the benefit of the doubt. 

Be forgiving when your child seems difficult, and if they need, allow them to take a mental health day.  

Consider mindful meditation for kids. This is a great way to avoid getting caught up in anxiety, conflict, and sadness. Check out mindful.org for ideas.   

Parents, administrators and educators: take care of your own mental health — like giving yourself oxygen first on the plane — so that you can help others under your care. 

Get out in nature, read a book, pursue a hobby, meet up with friends, or move your body – think of the activities that calm your nervous system, and make time for them.  

Keep a gratitude journal as a way of being mindful of and remembering the positive aspects of our experience. as well as the things in our lives that we do have control over. Focusing on the things that go well, rewires our brain to naturally pay attention to these things more.  

Get out of your head and into your body with physical exercise. Research shows that just 30 minutes a day has significant benefits for your emotional wellbeing. 

Most importantly, before reacting, stop and listen. Park and reflect on your response.  

“My mentor Susan Zoline at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology, used to say, ‘Don’t just do something, sit there.’ When someone pushes our buttons or embarrasses us, our brains flare and reason goes out the door,” Quinn said. “No one makes good decisions when acting off of emotions or knocked off of their Zen.”  

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