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Upstate doctors, families, shining light on important issue of kids & teens mental health | COVID-19 News


GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) – If you feel like your kids have been going through a lot lately in and out of school, you are not alone.

Wednesday, PRISMA Health hosted a meeting about kids, teens, the pandemic, and mental health – acknowledging how tough things have been on families since the return to school after New Year’s.


Doctors spoke to the community about the importance of coping strategies, and really paying attention to what your child is going through.


Fox Carolina also spoke to family psychologists, who say they have seen an increase in patients over the course of the entire pandemic, but also notably in the last few weeks and months. Parents – adding it already feels like their kids are being pulled in 50 different directions in 2022.


“Everything has been crazy with Covid,” said Greenville County parent Matt Spaulding. “We had the spike in cases. Then to turn around and get hit with the once every 10 years southern snowstorm…”


Spaulding says his two high school girls, a freshman and a sophomore, have been having a “hectic” time lately, between COVID surge, e-learning, and the unpredictability of it all.


“They are pulling their hair out, because it feels like they got so close to being back to normal,” Spaulding said. “Then this came straight to the jaw like ‘BAM!’ and here we are again.”


He says it took him a minute to realize things had really been hard on one of his daughters, who thrives on social interaction.


“A lot of it is grown-up stuff,” Spaulding said, when talking about how people mostly worry about adult things during the pandemic, like staying healthy to go to work/pay the bills. “A lot of people don’t take a step back and ask: ‘how is this affecting our youth?'” he went on.


“You have to be open with how you are feeling. That helps kids be open with how they’re feeling,” said Caitlin McLear, a family psychologist at the mental wellness outfit Vive, located in Greenville.


McLear says she mainly deals with school-age children and their families, and that she has seen an increase in patients lately; although she says she is happy about that on one hand, since this is evidence that more and more people are looking for healthy coping strategies to get them through.


“I talk a lot with kids and their families about having some fun things to look forward to,” McLear explained.


She told Fox Carolina that, especially now, when kids can be thrust into and out of isolation at a moments notice, goal-setting is important to keeping their mental health in check.


“It doesn’t have to be anything big or extravagant, but just saying, at the end of the week, or on a daily basis: ‘if I can finish this, I get to do this,’” she explained.


Perhaps more important she says, and something that PRISMA doctors echoed Wednesday, is making that extra effort to engage and have a normal person-to-person interactions in a safe manner whenever possible.


“One of the most important things that families can do is be intentional about putting aside screens when everyone is home,” said Dr. Peter Loper with PRISMA Health.


“Saying that we are going to spend time together, whether that’s eating dinner, playing a game, or taking a walk,” McLear added.


Parents like Spaulding say, especially in 2022, they’ve been trying to change behaviors in their own homes to spend more time with each other, free of distractions, and the confines of four walls.


“This has shined a light and opened the door to say ‘what can we do as a family to make the best of this situation?’” he said.


If your child, teen, or loved one has been having an especially tough time, even after trying some of the examples of coping strategies listed above, McLear says you should strongly consider talking to someone or reaching out to a qualified mental health professional.


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