WEST BLOOMFIELD — During her time as a professional psychologist over the past 15 years or so, Dr. Melanie Schwartz has never dealt with anything like this period in world history.
Like so many, her life has taken a different direction since the onset of the pandemic.
Aside from affecting her on a personal level, COVID has re-shaped her career.
“I’ve never dealt with, where every single person’s going through the exact same situation,” Schwartz said. “I’ve never had it where pretty much every session that I have per day is somehow related to the same topic that everyone else is talking about, for months at a time. Usually, one client comes in with one issue, the next client comes in with another issue. It’s all related to the pandemic; it’s all related to everything that’s going on in the world right now.”
Her role as a psychologist has also been shaken up this year.
“It’s the first time in this field where I am going through the same thing that my clients are going through,” Schwartz said. “Usually, I have an outside perspective — I’m objective. I’m going through the same thing they are, so it makes it a little bit more challenging in some ways to help them when you’re going through the exact same things, but we’re all learning together.”
Aside from her professional role, Schwartz has also taken time to try to help community members in another way.
She serves on the board for West Bloomfield Youth Assistance.
In recent years, the WBYA began a series titled “Parenting on the Go,” which covers different topics related to children and families, and can help strengthen parenting skills.
For approximately the last year and a half, Schwartz has helped coordinate the series.
Recently, the series has come in the form of webinars.
The presentations for each webinar are approximately 10-15 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer session that lasts about 15 minutes.
In October, webinar topics included “Remote Learning Tips for Children and Adults,” “Mental Health in Parents during the Pandemic,” “The Emotional Impact of the Pandemic on Adolescents” and “The Pandemic + Increase in Substance Use.”
Each webinar was led by a different speaker.
Schwartz anticipates “Parenting on the Go” to resume in either January or February.
To view previous webinars or to register for upcoming ones, visit wbyouthassistance.org.
Schwartz said the primary focus of the series “could be anything,” including drug and substance abuse, mental health needs and school-related issues.
The webinars can help provide comfort to parents.
“It reassures parents, and I like that they’re very short, because we’re busy,” Schwartz said. “I think what’s nice about it is you get a lot of information in a short period of time, which is just enough to take in and resonate with you, and then move on to the next thing. We can all relate to some of these issues. … If you have questions but haven’t been able to get answers or were afraid to ask about signs to look for in your kids or questions about substance abuse, things like that, this is a great way to get the answers that you’re looking for.”
Aside from being the deputy chief of the West Bloomfield Police Department, Curt Lawson is also the vice chair for the WBYA. From his perspective, the “Parenting on the Go” program has been “very successful” in helping to relay vital information to parents.
“These segments give parents tools to help their kids succeed,” Lawson wrote via email. “Our new podcasts have been designed to provide both parents and kids information directly related to issues brought about by the pandemic. I believe that programs like ‘Parenting on the Go’ truly matter and make a positive difference within our community.”
Pairing the words “remote” and “learning” has become very common for parents of school-aged children.
Schwartz shared some advice about the topic.
“Some kids need to be very isolated; they need to be in a space where there’s not a lot of activity going on, and other kids need more chaos going on around them,” she said. “It just depends on the child. … If you don’t know what they need or can’t quite figure it out, then ask for help. I think it’s important to have conversations with your kids about how they’re feeling, and what’s going on. … Also, (it helps) being able to tell your kids how you feel and how it’s affecting you, so that maybe they can relate or feel more comfortable to open up.”
Among the drawback of remote learning is that it has led to a decrease in socialization for children.
Schwartz said, “Being completely isolated from their friends has not been great for anyone.”
“It’s not good to isolate right now,” she said. “Make sure you have a support system. Make sure the kids have a support system, doing fun things. We’re in a time where there’s a lot (of) negativity going on. We read it, hear it, watch it. So we have to balance that out with some positive.”
Having a family game night and starting an exercise program together are examples Schwartz provided of positive activities.
“Parenting on the Go” has been around for “at least four years,” but this may be a more important time than ever for parents to find a source of support.
“I guess we’re running the gamut from anxiety to depression to anger, in terms of parenting,” Schwartz said. “They’re just looking for help in any way because this is obviously something that none of us have ever dealt with. … They want information. They want to know how they can help their kids, how they can help themselves. Whatever information we can give is beneficial to them.”