Expert explains keeping kids mentally healthy amid virus concerns

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With the statewide stay-at-home order in full effect, many students who normally receive counseling at school are no longer able to get it.

News 8 spoke with an expert about ways to keep your kids mentally healthy during this hard time.

“It’s important because it’s going to affect their tomorrow,” said Dr. Valencia Agnew, a children’s counselor with Adolescent & Family Behavioral Health Services in Grand Rapids.

While many adults are dealing with the stress of how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting our lives, Agnew says kids and teenagers are going through the same thing.

“None of us know how we should be handling it because we’re all individuals and we’re all experiencing things differently, so it’s important to give some safe space,” Agnew said.

For younger children, Agnew recommends an app called Go Noodle. The app helps children stay active and practice mindfulness right at home.

“They have kids do things like learn how to relax the muscles in their body or learn how to imagine they’re someplace else,” Agnew said.

For teenagers, she says families and schools can recreate traditions online that would normally happen in person.

“They would be engaging in all types of end of the school year rituals right now and preparing for graduation,” Agnew said. “Finding some rituals for those kids would be really important right now.”

Overall, she wants parents to know it’s important that children cope with their emotions while they’re happening, to help them better heal in the future.

“Right now everyone is in survival mode and when things are better, what’s going to happen? Some of the choices that we make right now can help with that,” Agnew said.

Adolescent & Family Behavioral Health Services has more counseling resources for parents and children online.