Published: Oct. 21, 2020 By

What can parents do during these challenging times for their kids? 

June Gruber suggests listening to the experts, following science-based suggestions and destigmatizing and supporting their mental health. 

“COVID-19 is a reality check for the field of mental health,” said Gruber, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at CU Boulder and director of the Positive Emotion and Psychopathology Laboratory. “We can all get involved in creating a rally around discussing and normalizing mental health and illness during the pandemic.” 

Joined by peers at CU Anschutz Medical Campus and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Gruber was recently part of a panel discussion that examined the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on families across the United States. The panel paid special attention to the struggles of parents trying to keep their families healthy while ensuring that their kids can continue to develop mentally, emotionally and physically.

The pandemic hasn’t spared anyone but there are unique risks for youth, said Gruber. Social interactions and academic milestones that are key at these ages are limited due to distancing requirements. But just because socialization is constrained, doesn’t mean that we can’t interact in meaningful ways. 

And, in the middle of a pandemic, pressuring oneself to feel happy is not the best strategy, noted Gruber. Allowing oneself to experience a broad range of emotions, including negative emotions, can help a person fare better over time both physically and mentally. 

The panel was part of a free series about COVID-19 science for media and the public in advance of ScienceWriters2020, the nation’s largest science journalism conference. ScienceWriters2021 will be hosted by CU Boulder and CU Anschutz in the fall of 2021