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School district psychologist helps children cope with challenges of coronavirus

Ashleigh Walters speaks with Dr. Juan Feliciano
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Posted at 1:40 AM, Apr 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-26 01:46:31-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Mental wellness and awareness is vitally important to the health of children and their parents. WPTV NewsChannel 5 took your biggest questions about coping with the challenges of the coronavirus crisis to Dr. Juan Feliciano, licensed clinical psychologist and mental health professional with the School District of Palm Beach County's Department of Behavioral and Mental Health Services.

"Almost an absolute must if you will, but it doesn't have to be this big conversation about what is depression, anxiety," he explained. "It's more about how do we stay calm? How do we stay peaceful? How can we be happy under this uncomfortable and inconvenient situation?"

One concern is how do you start a conversation with your child? Feliciano suggests you take your cues from them.

RELATED: How to cope with coronavirus fears at home

"They will let you know what they need to know," he said. "So, the best way to approach this is not to say, 'Let's sit down and talk,' but rather ask them, 'So, this has been on the news a lot, or you've seen this a lot, have you seen this, or what do you think?' In fact, start there. 'What do you think about what's going on?'"

A child might say, "It's great. I'm doing well." Or children might start bringing up specific concerns that are on their minds at that moment. That moment can help determine which way a conversation should go.

RELATED: Answering your children's questions about coronavirus

The School District of Palm Beach County is making efforts to promote emotional wellness. Feliciano has provided a number of resources to help students and their parents, starting with the main resources provided by the Behavioral and Mental Health Department.

The Caring First resource aims to remove barriers for students and families with access to services for social, emotional, behavioral and academic development of all students.

There are multiple resources for helping you with general coronavirus questions and concerns. You can find help with information technology efforts, mental wellness resources, school district announcements and more.

The district has resources and tips to adjust to online learning.

The National Association of School Psychologists has resources to help children cope with changes resulting from COVID-19.

he NASP has also offered tips to parents for talking with children about the virus and the surrounding crisis.

The National PTA offers six ways to help a child manage his or her anxiety.

The APA also offers tips for talking with children about difficult news.

There's advice for caregivers and children with disabilities during this time, provided by the APA.

Magination Press has compiled tools and strategies to manage stress and anxiety and assist with mindfulness.

A short book by Manuela Molina at Mindheart is free and downloadable. Titled "Hello, My Name is Coronavirus," it aims to support and reassure children younger than 7 and is available in various languages.

There is also a social story titled "Something Strange Happened in My City," created by Dr. Shu-Chen Jenny Yen at California State University, Fullerton.