As the Stay Safer at Home requirements  have been implemented to protect the community from the spread of Coronavirus, some Maine families may experience increased stress in the home due to increased financial  burdens, managing their children’s schooling, and a new normal of working from home. As pediatricians in our state, we care about you and the children you love, and would like to provide you with information on support that is available in our communities during these challenging times.

Children can sense that adults are stressed, and it is best to explain the coronavirus in terms that children can understand. This book can be downloaded for free.

If you have concerns about your child’s physical or mental health, do not hesitate to call your child’s doctor. Most are open and have adjusted to meet the needs of families and are able to offer care for children. Many can do video or telephone visits and for in-person visits, they have adjusted hours to see children who are sick at certain times of the day to decrease the chances of exposing others.  All children are encouraged to keep up their vaccines. Your doctor’s office can guide you through their vaccination procedures. This is especially critical for children under the age of two. Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers a wealth of information for families about the novel coronavirus.

Keeping children on a regular schedule, eating healthy foods, and getting regular exercise can go a long way toward keeping them healthy during this public health emergency. The CDC has further suggestions for families.

Take time to talk with your child or teen. Teens sometimes just need to chat. Teens miss their friends and the social events of school and the community. In addition, NAMI is offering a Teen Text Line at 207-515-8398. This line is open daily from Noon to 10pm.

For parents and caregivers of children with behavioral and emotional health concerns, these times can be even more challenging, as they no longer have the support from school and community services. GEAR Parent Network offers a video chat support group on Wednesdays from 1-3pm as well as free educational supportive webinars for parents and caregivers throughout May- call for more information (1-800-264-9224)

The National Child Stress and Traumatic Stress Network has created this useful guide for those who care for children: Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope With the Coronavirus Disease 2019 | The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

The Governor’s Children’s Cabinet has a webpage with resource for parents and children: maine.gov/future/initiatives/childrens-cabinet/covid19-family-resources

The Maine Department of Education has a webpage packed with resources for parents and kids maine.gov/doe/continuityoflearning/parent. For parents and caregivers who are worried about meeting basic needs, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has increased access to programs that support food security, health care, emergency benefits and more. To learn more and apply, visit MyMaineConnection.

During a crisis, the airlines have always offered advice that is helpful for us to remember – put your oxygen mask on first, then help those around you. It may be easier said than done for almost every parent at this time, but a deep breath, a few minutes alone, or a call to a professional to get some advice may go a long way in navigating the uncharted waters in which we all find ourselves. For resources supporting adult mental health, including first responders, visit the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Behavioral Health.

Remember there are helping hands about! Be safe.

— Special to the Press Herald