Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, health officials have noted an alarming increase in the use of drugs and alcohol, suicides, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
If adults have been so affected by the fallout from the pandemic, it’s not hard to imagine how much more it has impacted children of all ages. Their lives have been upended, their routines disrupted, and they have often internalized their fears and confusion. Add to this the fact that their normal outlets for release—school, sports, and relationships with friends—are often not available these days.
So what should parents do?
Watch for signs
Be alert for signs of suppressed anxiety, such as loss of appetite, reluctance to go to bed or to sleep alone, or unusual aggression toward others. Such symptoms may be normal developmental phases, but if you suspect they’re reacting to coronavirus concerns, try to find out if that’s what’s really going on.
Routines are vital
If old routines have been upended, it’s important to create new ones.
“Mealtime, bedtime, and getting ready are important routines,” Nicole Beurkens, a child psychologist and author of “Life Will Get Better,” told The Washington Post. “The more that we can embed those pockets of consistency in a kid’s day and life, the more we can help them feel secure and in control.”
In addition, encourage daily outdoor exercise or games to help relieve anxiety. And consider a family walk after dinner, because exposure to nature has been shown to improve mental health.
Communication is key
The Mayo Clinic recommends parents choose a time when kids are likely to want to talk, such as at dinner. Encourage children to express their feelings, letting them know that it’s okay to be upset. It’s also important to encourage them to come to you with any questions or concerns they may have.
Also check in frequently to see how they’re coping.
Finally, care for yourself to ensure you’re handling it well, because they will take their clues from you about how to react. Eat a healthy diet, get enough exercise and sleep, and talk to a mental health professional, if necessary.