The disruptions to everyday life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have put a significant strain on mental health for everyone, including children. The impacts of social distancing, missing out on favorite activities or milestone events, adjustments to online learning and the financial and other negative impacts on the household can all add up to quite a bit of fear, confusion and stress for kids.
For some kids, all of this can snowball into depression, spur a new mental illness or exacerbate an existing one. In fact, a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that mental health emergency room visits for children ages 5 to 11 have increased by 24% from April to October, 2020. For kids ages 12 to 17, the increase was 31%.
It’s important to be aware of the signs to look for in your child that may indicate they are struggling. It’s also important to know that there are things you can do to help your child cope and learn how to remain resilient during this difficult time.
Signs Your Child’s Mental Health May Be Suffering
The signs to look for vary a bit depending on the age of your child.
For infants, toddlers and young children the signs may include: being more irritable than usual; sleeping more, waking up in the middle of the night more often, or bedwetting; changes in appetite or bowel habits; stomach aches; separation anxiety or more frequent tantrums.
In older children, look for changes in mood and behavior, such as consistent irritability, stepping away from personal relationships or having frequent conflicts with others; a loss of interest in activities that he or she previously enjoyed; being unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, or sleeping more than usual; changes in appetite, weight or appearance; problems with memory, thinking or concentration; an increase in risky behavior such as using drugs or alcohol, or having thoughts about death or suicide.
How You Can Help Your Child Cope
The good news is that there are things you can do to help alleviate stress and negative effects on mental health for your child. If your child’s symptoms seem serious, talk with your pediatrician. If you are concerned your child may harm himself or herself you should seek emergency care.
If your child is struggling but the symptoms are not yet very severe, there is a lot that you can do to help him or her to relieve stress and restore a more positive state of mind.
Here are some resources that are available to help you:
Local resources at Harrington HealthCare
Tips and Resources from the CDC