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Child psychologist shares advice for coping with stress from coronavirus

Woodinville psychologist Dr. Kristine Berrett works with children and teenagers dealing with anxiety, depression and addictions.

Woodinville psychologist Dr. Kristine Berrett works with children and teenagers dealing with anxiety, depression and addictions. 

The worldwide coronavirus crisis has drastically changed daily routines and increased stress for people of all ages. 

Berrett, who has moved all of her appointments online, shared advice for helping young people cope. 

She said it's important for parents to have age-appropriate conversations with their kids and shield younger children from unfiltered news. 

There are proactive ways to keep a child engaged during uncertain times. 

"Empower children that there is something they can do," Berrett said. "They can wash their hands. They can organize their day so it’s creative."

Berrett said anxiety can present itself in a number of ways. 

"I’ve seen kids come in with difficulty sleeping at night, worries about their grandparents particularly," Berrett said. "And sometimes bizarre thoughts, like the world being cleansed of adults and kids taking over. Some really unusual thinking, but it just shows it’s on their mind."

Helping older tweens and teenagers can involve a different set of challenges. 

"They can really internalize the stress and they don’t always want to talk about it with parents. Either for fear that they’re going to overwhelm their parents who may be struggling emotionally already, or they’re just resistant to parents." 

Berrett suggested teens should stay virtually connected to their peers, such as a group video call like Zoom. But balance is key, she said, and kids shouldn't be glued to their devices all day. 

She also stressed the idea for older teens to have a sense of purpose -- it's important from them to have goals and feel what they're doing has purpose so they feel fulfilled. However, by having to miss out on end of the year milestones like graduations, that sense of purpose can be lost and depression and self-harm could creep in.

"The goal is to show how they can still have purpose, how can you choose to continue to grow in ways you want to grow," said Dr. Berrett.

Berrett said when you talk to your teen, make sure they can see the bigger picture and keep college or other goals in sight. 

"The families that are doing it well are creating time for learning. They are creating time to be creative and encouraging their children to focus on what is good.”