Wyoming Department of Family Services

CHEYENNE -- With coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) impacting many aspects of daily life, the Wyoming Department of Family Services (DFS) wants residents to remember children and parents need additional support and understanding during times of increased stress.

"Increased stress causes people to focus more on the negative," according to Ed Heimer, field administrator and licensed clinical social worker with DFS. "If you assume the worst in a situation, you're liable to provoke negative behavior from other people. This can potentially keep a negative behavior cycle going."

To combat a negative thought and behavior cycle, Heimer suggests switching off disturbing media and instead switching on relaxing and soothing music, taking a walk or looking for positive news.

Heimer says additional parenting tips include increasing communication with children, consistently reinforcing positive behaviors no matter how small they may seem, and creating a calm environment. "Even small, or incremental changes to the environment, can produce significant positive results," he said.

Experts say it's important to monitor all children, especially adolescents, for signs of increased stress. Signs can include irritability, changes in behavior and changes in eating and sleeping habits. To help alleviate the stress, according to Heimer, exercise if possible and make time for fun with children of all ages. Another idea is to encourage adolescents to talk or write about the situation and their stress.

"Adults have had time to develop coping mechanisms to stress and children rely on the adults in their lives to appropriately role model those skills" Heimer said. "Adults can play a key role in supporting and managing a child's stress."

Parents can help by modeling appropriate behavior, letting their children become problem solvers and combating negative thinking by reframing the negative into a positive. "Learning to frame things positively will help children develop resilience to stress," Heimer said.

Currently, all DFS field offices remain open. For help or support call a local DFS office. Please go to https://dfs.wyo.gov/about/contact-us to find the local DFS contact number or nearest office.

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