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G.E.A.R. offers support to families dealing with mental health issues

Resources, webinars, tips and how to talk to your kids abour coronavirus
Mar 19, 2020

G.E.A.R. Parent Network is remaining open during the coronavirus (COVID-19) isolation period and staff members are available via email, phone and text to support parents who need help.

G.E.A.R. also has recommendations for families dealing with autism during this period of high stress, for speaking with children about the coronavirus, and other resources for families with mental health issues.

Although G.E.A.R. will not be offering its live workshops for a while, it will continue to offer learning opportunities through webinars via GoToMeeting from the safety of your home computer or mobile device.

Call 800-264-9224 to register for a webinar, or to receive emotional support or mental health resource information. Workshops are listed at, and April-June workshops will be posted soon

Jessica Hall, regional parent support coordinator for Waldo, Knox, Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties, offered some guidance in messages to parents this week.

“The next few weeks for some may be very overwhelming with school closures, isolation requests, cancellation of appointments, and limited access to resources,” she said. “Fear and anxiety about the unknown can cause strong emotions in both adults and children.”

Stress can add to or cause:

· Changes in sleep/eating patterns.

· Cause concerns about your own health and health of your loved one.s

· Difficulty concentrating.

Remember to take care of yourselves, Hall said, including your mental health.

· Take breaks from social media.

· Take care of your body: rest, eat.

· Make time to unwind and enjoy this time with your loved ones.

· Connect with others via phone/text/face time, share how you are feeling.

Note that children may respond differently:

· Excessive crying or irritation.

· Behaviors that they have outgrown may return.

· Excessive worrying.

· Unexplained headaches or body pain.

Make time to talk together as a family and answer questions they may have.

· Reassure children that they are safe and it’s OK to feel upset; share with them how you deal with stress and let them learn from you.

· Limit exposure to news/social media. Kids can misinterpret what they hear and it can be frightening to them.

· Keep with regular routines as much as possible; create schedules for learning activities or fun relaxing activities.

Take the positives of this time and make the best of it! We now have time with our families, a time to reconnect!

· Time to strengthen our bonds, and feel closer to one another.

· Time to create memories, e.g., bake cookies, do art projects, build a fort or have a PJ day at home.

· Get outside (if possible) for a nature walk, collect pine cones, bird watch.

Feel free to contact any G.E.A.R staff when you need someone to talk to:

Resources for autism

Autism Society of Maine also offers resources for families. Cathy E. Dionne, executive director of the Autism Society of Maine, said, “We know our families will feel this the most – it will be difficult to maintain a structured environment at home and no support.”

For resources, ASM has a webpage with ideas, craft projects, and virtual sites to visit while isolated at home. The society also offers a social story on the coronavirus to help explain it to children with autism. Visit

Webinar workshops

G.E.A.R. Parent Network has webinar trainings available via GoToMeeting. Prior to the workshop, download the free app from either Google Play or Apple App Store to your smart phone or computer. Call 1-800-264-9224 to register and G.E.A.R. will send the handouts and link to participate, along with certificate of attendance.

Monday, March 23, 1-3 p.m.

“Disaster Preparedness 101: Families Prepare and Empower Themselves to Persevere through Traumatic Events and Unexpected Disaster,” presented by Jessica Hall, regional parent support coordinator.

Flooding, blizzards, power outages and intense storms are common disasters in Maine. This workshop focuses on the reactions and needs of children and adolescents in times of unexpected disaster. Participants will learn how to engage their communities and emergency teams to effectively respond to the unique health and well-being needs of their children and youth. Families will begin to plan and prepare for an emergency evacuation and learn strategies to make the unforeseen event more bearable and less traumatic.

Tuesday, March 24, 10 a.m.-noon

“Positive Behavioral Supports & Tantrum Management: Self-Preservation & Success in Parenting Children with Behavioral Health Needs,” presented by Shannan Boyorak, regional parent support coordinator.

This workshop will offer a framework to understand the nature of your child’s behavior and methods to flexibly respond to the needs your child presents. Positive behavioral supports emphasize practical ideas about how to meet your child where they are and utilize their motivation to increase success. Understanding and using Stage of Change concepts, maximizing provider involvement, and enhancing natural supports will be emphasized to provide usable tools that can be applied in a variety of real-life situations. Temper tantrums are disruptive behavior or emotional outbursts displayed in response to unmet needs or desires.

Tuesday, March 24, 5:30-7 p.m.

“Non-Toxic Housekeeping Class,” presented by Diane Bouffard, CPSP, team leader.

Learn how to avoid using toxic chemicals and still provide a clean, healthy and comfortable home; how to save money and time with simple cleaning techniques; and easy and inexpensive recipes to make safe, effective homemade household cleaners. Save money while reducing your family’s exposure to toxic cleaners!

Wednesday, March 25, 1-3 p.m.

“Surviving Parenting: Self-Care is NEVER Selfish,” presented by Rebecca Williamson, CFPS, regional parent support coordinator.

Self-care often becomes an afterthought for parents and caregivers. The ability to treat and understand oneself with respect and kindness can be especially elusive when raising a family. In this workshop, you will learn how stress and anxiety affect all of us and what you can do about it. You will do a self-care checkup and tools will be shared to create positive thinking. Discover how to cope when your life is full but your energy tank is running on empty.

Thursday, March 26, 10 a.m.-noon

“Managing Stress: Strategies for Recognizing & Reducing Stress,” presented by Diane Bouffard, CFPS, regional parent support coordinator.

We all have stress in our lives. The stress is even greater for parents of a child with behavioral health needs. Discover what stress is and how stress affects us. Learn to differentiate between good and bad stress, and learn stress relief and reduction strategies that can help us to live healthier lives.

Talking with children about coronavirus

Jessica Hall passed along resources from for talking with children about coronavirus, quoting the organization:

“The coronavirus has been upsetting to everyone. Our usual coping mechanisms of coming together in times of stress are now being discouraged and we are forced us to keep our distance from each other.

“For families caring for a child, youth or young adult with mental health needs, changes in schedules, not seeing friends and worry about the possibility of getting sick may heighten anxiety.”

FREDLA recommends the following to help families support their children through this difficult time:

Child Mind Institute

• Supporting Kids During the COVID-19 Crisis: Tips for nurturing and protecting children at home,

• How to Avoid Passing Anxiety on to Your Kids,

Humanity Crew

• Video, Talking to Kids about the Coronavirus

Child Traumatic Stress Network

• Parent Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope with the Coronavirus

Mental Health America

Mental Health and COVID-19 – Information and Resources


•Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation During an Infectious Disease Outbreak

For more information, visit


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