COVID-19 has caused major disruptions to households around the world, and your child’s mental health may be suffering.
Isolation, uncertainty, stress, fear, and grief make it an emotionally challenging time.
Young children also feel these changes, and the worldwide pandemic has taken a serious toll on their mental health.
Older kids and teens are having an especially hard time and suicide rates have skyrocketed.
Unfortunately, it may still be quite some time before things return to normal.
In the meantime, it’s important to stay tuned into how children are coping.
Here’s how to support your child’s mental health during the ongoing pandemic:
How Is Your Child Coping with COVID-19?
How is your child’s mental health and how are they coping?
The only way to know for sure is to talk to your child!
When it comes down to it, an open line of communication is key. (1)
Invite them to share how they feel and regularly check-in, even if it doesn’t seem like anything is wrong.
Kids can do a great job of putting on a brave face when they’re hurting inside.
Some kids may feel anxious, depressed, angry, or even hopeless. They need frequent reminders of their support system.
Also, keep in mind that teenagers and young adults tend to keep their thoughts bottled up.
They may feel too ashamed or scared to open up, or may even feel a sense of responsibility not to burden anyone.
On the other hand, younger kids may not know how to express their feelings.
But just because they don’t know how to share doesn’t mean they’re not affected!
So check in regularly and watch them like a hawk. It’s the only way to know for sure how they’re coping with COVID.
Signs that Your Child Is Stressed
Although signs of stress can vary greatly from child to child, different age groups share a lot of similarities. (2)
Let’s take a look at some of the most common signs of stress according to age as they pertain to your child’s mental health:
Babies, Toddlers & Young Children
Backward progress in skills and development
Irritability and fussiness
Restless sleep during the night
Constipation or loose stools or stomach pain
Acting “clingy,” withdrawn, or even anxious
Tantrums, frustration, and anger
Sudden bedwetting despite being potty trained
Aggressive behavior or other conflicts during playtime
Adolescents & Older Children
Unusual mood swings
Behavioral changes, like withdrawing from close relationships with family and friends
Loss of interest in activities they usually enjoy
Changes in their eating habits
Weight loss or weight gain
Problems concentrating and poor memory
Falling grades in school
Sudden changes in appearance, like a different style of clothing
Reckless behavior, like alcohol or drug use
The worst sign of all, though, isn’t one that can be observed…
With suicide rates at all-time highs, it’s important to ask if they’ve ever thought about killing themselves.
Any sign of stress or depression, even small changes in behavior, calls for a serious talk about suicide.
Kids and teens are often ashamed to have suicidal thoughts.
They know how terrifying it will be for you to find out and they might even deny it at first, but something serious could still be brewing underneath the surface.
Your Pediatrician Is Here For You
Remember that you are not alone. Your pediatrician is here for you.
Especially if you have any concerns, it is very important to stay in touch with your pediatrician.
In fact, it’s always okay to make an appointment to check on your child’s emotional health.
Pediatricians are trained to keep an eye out for depression and anxiety in children, and they might spot something that you missed.
They may also ask you whether COVID-19 has had any physical or emotional impact on your family as a whole, which will help them better understand your child’s current state.
If you have a teen at home, it’s also a good idea to offer them some private time to talk with the doctor. (3)
We’ve all been through the phase where we don’t want to talk to our parents, and doing so will give them the space to speak openly.
Dealing With The Loss of A Loved One To COVID-19
Anybody who has lost someone to COVID-19 might need some special attention.
After all, losing someone you love is one of the hardest experiences in life.
This is true for people of all ages, but especially for kids.
Children and young adults in most cases will not have the emotional maturity to deal with loss. (4)
At the same time, family support may not be enough, as everyone is suffering together.
That’s why they may need professional counseling to help manage their grief.
If you feel like they may need professional help, contact your pediatrician and get a referral to a specialist as soon as possible.
Yes, Suicide Is a Real Risk!
Generally speaking, suicide rates increase during stressful times.
Apart from screening for depression, your pediatrician may also look out for suicide risk, especially in adolescents. (5)
Not everyone with suicidal thoughts will act on them, but everyone who has suicidal thoughts can benefit from counseling.
If you have the slightest worry, it is very important to take the situation seriously and seek immediate help.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime at 1-800-273-TALK or message the Crisis Text Line by texting “TALK” to 741741.
5 Ways To Support Your Child’s Mental Health During COVID-19
Let’s take a look at how you can help your child cope with the effects of COVID-19:
1. Continue To Be Their Role Model
Don’t speak too negatively about COVID-19. Your stress will lead by example.
Stay positive and have fun as a family.
Offer lots of affection and love to everyone around you.
Keep a regular daily routine. It can provide a calming sense of control.
2. Follow All Hygiene & Safety Measures Yourself
Even if we can’t go outside, practice good daily hygiene as if you were going out to work.
Wash your hands properly and remember to sing happy birthday twice with your children.
Compliment your kids when they practice good daily hygiene and safety habits.
Stay healthy by encouraging regular exercise, a balanced diet, and proper sleep.
3. Listen, Don’t Just Hear
Let the questions your children have guided you as you guide them through any difficult conversations you may have with them.
While it is important to always be truthful, you don’t need to communicate any unnecessary details that may stress them out.
4. Limit Or Monitor Social Media
Limit the time spent on social media. It only increases fear and anxiety.
Ask them what they’ve heard to make sure they aren’t scared of inaccurate rumors.
Explain to them that the internet is full of fake news and not to trust everything you hear.
5. Give Age-Appropriate Explanations
Give simple information in a casual way to early elementary school children.
Children between upper elementary and middle school may ask more questions.
Explain what is being done by the government to handle COVID-19.
Discuss the issue in more depth with high school students and include them in the decision-making process.
Remember To Take Care of Yourself Too
Don’t forget to take care of yourself during these hard times!
Never forget that children are sponges that soak up whatever energy you put out.
That’s why it’s so important to be positive and remind them that a brighter future lies ahead.
If you find yourself struggling with your own stress, seek support from family and friends.
And of course, you should always make time for mindfulness activities like yoga and meditation.
Both practices can relieve stress and help you focus on the present moment. (6)
Also, add some downtime for the whole family to relax and connect. Watch a movie, play a card game or just have some nice talks together!
If you have any more questions about your child’s mental health during COVID-19, feel free to contact us at Complete Care Health Centers.
We’re more than happy to answer any questions you may have.