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Your Healthy Family: UCHealth rolls out free videos to help kids and parents manage anxiety & stress

Posted at 2:16 PM, Mar 07, 2022
and last updated 2023-02-23 14:42:50-05

Disclaimer: This is sponsored content. All opinions and views are of UCHealth and does not reflect the same of KOAA.

In today's Your Healthy Family: During the pandemic, there’s been a continuing rise in kids’ mental health needs amid a shortage of providers - two issues we highlighted in recent stories. To help parents and kids during this time, UCHealth has come up with a free online resource they want everyone to know about.

It's a three-video series that is the brainchild of UCHealth child psychologist Dr. Kathy Sigda and licensed clinical social worker SJ Purcell called "Navigating the Seas of Stress."

Dr. Sigda says, “We wanted to develop something that families could access on their own and start to develop some coping strategies and ways to help their children manage stress and anxiety.”

How can you tell if your kids are struggling beside the obvious signs of worry and stress? Dr. Sidga explains: “Some warning signs about anxiety in children are things like being worried, crying a lot, being scared to go to bed, wanting to leave the light on when you go to bed. Kids also express anxiety in a variety of ways, so it can look like increased defiance, not wanting to go to school, fighting more with siblings, and more aggression. Really, any behavioral changes in a child can be a sign of underlying stress and anxiety.”

These free videos cast a broad net of foundational information and principles when it comes to helping kids cope with stress and anxiety. As a parent who has been through years of counseling and therapy with children struggling with these issues, much of what we learned over the years is covered in these videos, which are now available at a time when appointments can be challenging to find.

Dr. Sigda says, “Stress and anxiety are a very broad category, and (these videos) are a very simple solution that a parent can access. Just click on the link and watch a video, or a series of videos and get some tips and some ideas. The tips and ideas in our series of videos are widely applicable to any type of stress, so while these videos are targeted toward the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot can be taken from the videos as far as helping kids with anxiety that is broadly applicable.”

Dr. Sigda says the videos can also open the door to coping skills or techniques. “Families may have other ideas the videos may spark, so it’s a great opportunity for families to come up with some of their own ways of managing the stress and just recognizing when their children are exhibiting signs of stress and anxiety when they may need a little extra support and nurturing. So, it's a good first step that families can take.”

While these videos are extremely informative and can help in a variety of situations, they are not meant to replace in-person counseling with a mental health professional when that's what is needed. Dr. Sigda says, “Certainly if parents still have concerns about their child's mental health, absolutely they should reach out and see about getting in with somebody for some one-on-one talk. Talking to a therapist - there's really no downside to doing that, other than a little bit of time and money invested in doing that. It can be really helpful for anyone.”

While young kids - especially - continue to process our ever-changing world of masks or no masks and learning to live with COVID-19, experts believe that given time, navigating these emotional seas of stress and anxiety is also a matter of parents understanding the road ahead so they can support their kids.

Dr. Sigda says, “Kids are very resilient and the neural plasticity of the brain is a great thing. They will adapt and will develop new skills and they will catch up on the social and emotional level, but it will take time. We all have to be aware as adults and recognize where our kids are coming from with their current experiences. They won't verbalize those concerns because they don't recognize that these last two years have been anything but normal - young kids won't recognize that.”

UCHealth is a proud sponsor of Your Healthy Family

COVID-19 stress may not disappear overnight for children, experts say 

UCHealth creates video series to help kids and parents weather the ongoing mental impact of the pandemic. 

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (Feb. 23, 2021) – The COVID-19 pandemic has created a storm of stress that has nearly doubled the number of children who suffer from behavioral health issues like depression or anxiety, recent studies have shown. And now some experts are saying this stress isn’t going to go away as the masks come off.

Today, UCHealth is launching “Navigating The Seas of Covid Stress,” a three-part video series created to help parents and children better identify when stress has become an issue and introduce a variety of tools that can help the child cope with the symptoms of depression or anxiety before it escalates to a more serious behavioral health issue.

Dr. Kathy Sigda, a licensed clinical psychologist who provides services to children and adolescents at UCHealth Mountain Crest Behavioral Health in Fort Collins, is concerned about the mental health of all children as the pandemic approaches its two-year mark in Colorado. She is hopeful that this video series will provide families with some much-needed support today and in the future.

“While many of the pandemic-related restrictions are being lifted, which is wonderful, we may be able to get back to a place where we can see each other’s whole faces and interact a little more normally,” Sigda said. “The mental health and developmental impact of this won’t disappear overnight. We expect to see ongoing problems in some of our most vulnerable populations, including kids, with anxiety and stress and even depression related to living this way for the past two years.”

SJ Purcell is a licensed clinical social worker who works with children and adolescents at UCHealth. In the videos, she walks viewers through many simple and practical coping mechanisms. The breathing patterns introduced in the videos take the children out of the fight, flight or freeze mode of breathing.

“If our brain feels us in this heightened state and we are breathing rapidly, it doesn’t know if we are being chased by a tiger or if our little sister is pestering us. It responds the same, so muscles get tense or palms get sweaty,” Purcell said. “If we can calm that down, our body calms down and our brain calms down. Those are skills that will be lifelong. We are going to have stressors throughout our lives, so it’s important that kids learn some of these strategies to know they do have their own sense of empowerment to take care of themselves and take care of their mental health.”

The series features interviews with experts, children, parents, and teachers as well as animation. It was produced in partnership with CSI Films and made possible by a grant from students in Walt Clark Middle School’s Give Next program, a student-led grant program managed by Bohemian Foundation.

“The one thing I hope for the future is that this generation is going to be very adaptable and very resilient,” Sigda said. “We as adults have to provide them with the tools to do that.”