How to Talk to a Child About Mental Health During COVID?

Posted in uncategorized on August 13, 2020

Your immediate family and loved ones are living through unprecedented times as the novel COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep through the US. Social distancing, quarantines and safer-at-home orders for the past few months have led to significant rises in mental health problems. Children are not exempt from mental health struggles. Isolation, lack of stability, and fear or stress related to the pandemic could negatively affect a child’s mental health. Learn tips for opening the conversation about mental health with your child and family during COVID.

COVID and Mental Health Statistics

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, the National Center for Health Statistics and the US Census Bureau have been monitoring how households have been coping. They use an experimental system, the Household Pulse Survey, to collect data about how COVID has impacted individuals and families. This online survey published by the Center for Disease Control has so far shown an increase in the symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders across the board from 35.9% in April to 40.9% in July. Although children under the age of 18 have not been included in these surveys, the research indicates that they, too, are experiencing an increase in both anxiety and depression.

What Are Signs of Depression and Anxiety in Children?

Children thrive on stability, predictability and routines. They also require regular socialization and interactions with others to achieve major milestones, such as learning appropriate behaviors in real-life situations. Sadly, the Coronavirus disease has taken these building blocks away from children as they have been forced to isolate away from friends and school and stay at home. Social face-to-face interaction has largely been replaced with added screen time. This shift in social interactions, has led to an increase in mental health conditions among children and teens. Your child might be experiencing depression or anxiety if you notice certain symptoms.

  • Feelings of isolation or loneliness
  • Appearing overwhelmed
  • Stronger emotional responses than usual
  • Outbursts or tantrums
  • Personality or mood changes
  • Regression in young children
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep-related problems or changes in sleep patterns
  • Fatigue
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Withdrawal from favorite hobbies or activities
  • Disinterest in television or entertainment
  • Unexplained body pains or headaches
  • Use of alcohol or substances in teens

Depression and anxiety are normal reactions to the novel coronavirus in a child. In fact, children and teens may react more strongly to COVID-19 conditions than adults. Your child might have been looking forward to events this year such as prom, graduation, summer vacations, summer camps and the first day of school that have now been altered or taken from them because of COVID. They may have spent the summer cooped up at home without interacting with friends in person. These changes can all spark a mental health condition. If you notice symptoms of depression or anxiety, start the healing process with a conversation about mental health with your child or teen.

Tips for Opening a Mental Health Discussion With Your Child

As a parent or teacher, open the conversation about COVID and mental health with children who are showing symptoms of depression or anxiety. It helps to stay calm so the child picks up and copies your emotional cues. Reassure the child that everything will be alright and that he or she is not alone. Make, and keep, yourself available to talk and listen to the child. Ask the child if he or she wants to talk about anything, including how the pandemic is making him or her feel. Avoid overstimulating or overwhelming your child with too much of the news, social media, TV or the radio. Provide honest, helpful information that is age-appropriate for your child about COVID-19 to ease some of his or her fears or concerns.

Try to maintain typical routines as much as possible. Come up with fun and meaningful activities for you and your child to do together. These can include reading, exercising, playing outside, playing board games, mindfulness exercises and doing science projects. Your child’s mental health can start with you. If your family would benefit from professional help related to divorce, child custody, child support, paternity or domestic violence during COVID-19, Ratzer|Dobis has Certified Family Law Specialists available. Contact us today for more information.