Academy recommends parents seek help for themselves, and use positive discipline techniques like time outs, redirection and reinforcement of good behaviors
ITASCA, ILL. (March 23, 2020) — The American Academy of Pediatrics today advises parents facing stressors over COVID-19 to practice self-care, to reach out to others for help, and to use healthy discipline techniques, such as time-outs.
The Academy acknowledges the financial, emotional and other stresses that parents face as the number of coronavirus cases rise and many families spend long periods of time isolated at home. Research has found that when families are stressed, children are at an increased risk of being abused.
Caregivers should be sure to take care of themselves physically: eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep. Parents and caregivers also should maintain important connections to friends, family, and others in their community who can offer a critical support network by phone or video.
“During this time of understandable anxiety, give back and reach out to other parents when they need support,” said AAP President Sara “Sally” H. Goza, MD, FAAP. “If someone calls you frustrated about a crying baby or screaming toddler, offer to help.
Children may show signs of increased stress, which can lead to more frustration for the entire family, too. Building on the Academy’s updated discipline policy issued last year, the group recommends the following techniques:
According to the AAP, spanking, hitting, and other forms of corporal punishment can increase aggression in children in the long-run and do not teach children to behave or practice self-control. In fact, research shows it may harm the child and inhibit normal brain development. Corporal punishment may undermine the feeling of safety and security of home, which are particularly needed now.
The Academy also cautions caregivers never to shake or throw a child, which could cause permanent injuries and disabilities and could even result in death. The Academy recently issued an updated policy for pediatricians on identifying, treating and preventing abusive head trauma.
Tips for calming a fussy baby and advice for caregivers who have reached a breaking point can be found here. If you have a friend, relative or neighbor with the new baby at home, think of ways you can reach out to provide emotional support or practical tips, even during the current period of isolation.
“Sadly, about 5 children die every day in America from abuse and neglect,” said Robert Sege, MD, PhD, FAAP, a child abuse pediatrician and member of the AAP Council on Child Abuse and Neglect. “No doubt, we are worried about the financial and emotional stress this pandemic is placing on families, especially the most vulnerable. Call your pediatrician. Call your close friend, relative, or faith leader. Call someone if you fear snapping.”
In addition to reaching out to others for help, the Academy recommends parents facing acute stress try to take just a few seconds to ask themselves:
In many cases, the answers will deflate the panic and the impulse to lash out physically or verbally at children.
“Positive, nurturing relationships are so important for children as they develop, and parents and caregivers also need support - especially during times of uncertainty and stress like we’re in now,” said Suzanne Haney, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Child Abuse and Neglect. “Everyone can play a role within their own family and in their network of friends and neighbors to support the most vulnerable among us.”
ABOUT THE AAP
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.
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