Supporting Mental Health in Children During Times of Uncertainty
When COVID-19 entered our lives in March of 2020, it changed us forever. The stress and trauma from all that has happened over the past 19 months can have lasting effects on children and teens’ mental health. That’s why it is more important than ever to regularly check in with your child to see how they are doing.
People react to stress differently. And for children and teens, it can be challenging to identify the cues that something is wrong. This is especially true for parents of young children, who are less able to understand and verbalize what they are feeling.
Whether your child is a teen who prefers to keep to themselves or a small child, here are some tips to help you identify mental health red flags so you can provide support when needed.
Stress Demonstrated in Infants, Toddlers, and Young Children
For young children, a regression in skills and developmental milestones is not uncommon when dealing with feelings of stress. You may also notice:
- trouble sleeping – whether going to sleep or waking more frequently throughout the night,
- feeding issues, which may include vomiting and nausea, constipation, or loose stools,
- bedwetting in children who are potty trained,
- aggressive behavior, which may include hitting, biting, more intense tantrums,
- fussiness and irritability.
Stress Demonstrated in Older Children and Adolescents May Include:
- behavioral changes, which may include pulling back from social relationships and a loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed,
- difficulty sleeping – either falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping all the time,
- changes in appetite,
- mood changes including irritability, anger, and rage, and conflicts with family or friends,
- lack of interest in school, including the effort they put forth,
- changes in appearance,
- difficulty concentrating or with memory,
- thoughts of death or suicide,
- reckless behavior.
Your child’s pediatrician is your biggest fan. They are available to answer questions and provide recommendations and solutions where needed. Pediatricians are trained to screen for depression and inquire about other mental health issues, such as stress and anxiety.
Parents, Stress and How It Impacts Kids’ Mental Health
Parents and caregivers are more stressed than ever before. People seeking assistance from mental health professionals are at an all-time high. Taking time to take care of yourself is crucial.
Parents set the tone in the home. If you are feeling extreme fear or stress, your children may too. Despite how they feel, parents should try to relay consistent messages of a brighter future – that things won’t always be this difficult and that there are many things for which to be grateful. Try to keep things light whenever possible. Find time to connect as a family, play games, go for a walk, enjoy a movie, have a dance party, and laugh together.
Keep the lines of communication open and be your child’s greatest advocate. Whenever you have questions or need support, please contact our office. If emergency assistance is required, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK, or you can text ‘TALK’ to 741741. You can also always dial 911.
Together we will all get through this.