KC area mental health expert gives advice on managing COVID-19 stress

Posted at 4:47 PM, Aug 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 19:30:19-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The coronavirus pandemic is a stressful time for parents like Sarah McGinnity. 41 Action News first met McGinnity and her family in March when her church transitioned to online services due to the pandemic.

The changes since have been a new adjustment for her children.

"I have a fourth grader who is transferring to public school to go remote," McGinnity said. "I have a first grader who is staying at our small, private school and is home schooling with their curriculum and then meeting with his teacher once a week in person and then a pre-K daughter who is going in-person three days a week."

This mother, like others, is feeling the pandemic's lasting effects.

"It's hard," she said. "I have to sometimes at 5 o'clock, – I just say, 'Bye, and I will see you in an hour,' and I just go walk around the neighborhood."

Julie Pratt, president and CEO of Comprehensive Mental Health Services in Independence, said the pandemic is causing an immense amount of pressure.

"The additional stress and anxieties that the pandemic has brought to the forefront on everyone just adds to that," Pratt said. "You have people who are dealing with loss of jobs, loss of housing, inability to see and visit with family members."

But there are some steps to take that can help improve mental health during the pandemic, according to Pratt. First, parents should be confident in their decision about the school year.

"Every decision that is being made by parents is the right decision for that parent, and I think they need to remember to tell themselves that," Pratt said.

Second, Pratt recommended reaching out to others.

"Continue to connect with the people in your lives," she said. "Whether that's making that phone call, reaching out over Zoom or those social media contacts you have."

Parents, according to Pratt, tend to take care of others, but won't "be good to anyone else" unless they also are paying attention to themselves.

McGinnity said the pandemic has created a situation of "extreme parenting," which is not normal. McGinnity runs Kansas City Mom Collective and articles posted on the site like pandemic parenting and how to get ready for school have helped her make the decision on what to do about her children and serve as a resource for other mothers.

Local resources on mental health help: