MEET EDITH KRIEL, Social Worker "PANDEMIC ALERT: The mental health of children during COVID-19"


Edith Kriel is a social worker who has specialised in working with children that have experienced trauma for the last 26 years. She developed the Teddy Bear Clinic into a multi-service, initiated the Child Witness Protection in the Western Cape, developed the Healing Project for children that have been sexually abused, initiated and developed the Anatomical Doll Project in South Africa and co-authored the books 'Voice of Hope: Healing Stories for Africa's Children' and 'Our Bodies: helping parents, caregivers and teachers talk to young children about sexuality'. Edith often presents at multi-disciplinary seminars and conferences on a range of topics related to child protection and mental health. Edith has a private practice (The Child Trauma Centre) and is the Executive Director of an NGO called Jelly Beanz. 

The services of the Child Trauma Centre and Jelly Beanz are committed to serving and protecting children during COVID-19.

Contact details: 021 556 2456 / 

PANDEMIC ALERT: The Mental Health of Children During COVID-19

You may have been wondering, what you can do to help your children cope with this pandemic and get through the lockdown period? Well, you may be suprised to know that the first and best thing you can do for your children right now is take care of yourself and your emotions!

Be aware of your own feelings of fear, frustration and anxiety that you may be experiencing. This is very important for a variety of reasons. 

Firstly, children are very intuitive and pick up on your mood instinctively. This is not on a conscious level, and thus children may not be able to express what it is they are sensing, especially the younger ones. However, it heightens their own levels of fear, frustration and anxiety.

Secondly, if you yourself are overwhelmed by your feelings you react towards your children from this state of heightened emotion. You are more likely to be disrespectful and over-react. Now, we cannot be perfect parents, however, we have to speak to our children in ways that we would like to be spoken to. When reacting it leads to increased stress for everyone. However, if we take a moment to listen carefully and take a breath, we can respond in a way that is on point and more supportive.

Thirdly, if we are in this space of being overwhelmed by our feelings, we become unavailable to our children when they need to discuss issues that are important to them. We all want our children to know that we will be there for them always, no matter what. However, this requires that we show our children that we are safe and caring people to talk to.

Now you may be wondering how it is possible to take care of yourself amidst COVID-19 and all the extra stressors that it brings. It is the time when we have to practise going back to basics: focusing on our breathing to ground ourselves, taking time in the day to just be quiet within yourself, getting some exercise, (even if it is running up and down in your drive way), having a routine for the day, doing things that are good and enjoyable for you too and most of all, having some fun with your children and family. These will need focus and planning to ensure that they happen every day... schedule them into your day, make it part of the routine. Your children will be all the better for it if you take care of your own mental health. 


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Dr Lesley Carew is a registered Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist practising at the Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town with a satellite sessional room on Thursday afternoons at the Akeso Milnerton.


Tel: 021 423 8774/6
Fax: 086 641 5388