Is My Child Struggling? Children’s Mental Health During a Pandemic
Covid-19 has drastically changed the way we live our daily lives. As adults, we are expected to adjust, adapt and be the example our children need to grow and thrive. I don’t know about you, but no matter how “OK” I told myself I was or tried my hardest to be, I was not able to navigate this pandemic without a few breakdowns behind closed doors. I had my faith in God and the support and strength of my husband to lean on, but if I could not keep it together, how can we expect that our children were able to? Kids experience stress too, and they feed off our actions and reactions. No matter how hard we might try to shelter them from our worries and fears, they know our world is different and our day to day life outside the home is no longer what they remember from just a few short months ago. They have had their routines disrupted, forced to finish a school year virtually, had events canceled and missed milestones all in six months’ time. Small amounts of stress are a normal part of life; however, large amounts of stress can be worrisome and can have negative effects on our child’s academic performance, socialization, and overall mental health.
Health care professionals are beginning to see children that show emotional, physical, and even behavioral signs of stress. According to parent resources found on the Boys and Girls Club of America’s website, some physical indicators could include headaches, upset stomachs, chest pains, insomnia, nightmares, bed wetting and decreased or increase appetite. Some of the emotional indicators might include anxiety, mood swings, restlessness, clinginess, new fears, increased crying, aggression, stubbornness, and decreased motivation. Sudden or abnormal behaviors that some children may have already begun to display, could be a reaction to the stress they are experiencing in their little worlds. Parents, family members, teachers, and caregivers, are our children’s best defense against what might be affecting their mental health. They are most often the first to recognize the signs and can play a vital role in teaching them how to cope during challenging times.
As parents, we can help alleviate stressors that may be affecting our children by ensuing they feel safe. Children need to be reassured that, we as adults, are there to protect them in anyway possible, and that they are loved unconditionally. Talking to our children is huge in figuring out what is causing them distress. Asking them how they feel and listening to their responses can give you insight into what makes their little minds tick and how you can provide them with what they need to ease their stress. While responses will vary greatly based on age, opening that line of communication can help get to the root of the issue. Talking is a great way to build a stronger relationship with your child and it allows for extra quality time together, either one on one or as a family.
It is important for us as parents to help our children develop healthy coping methods that can set them up for long-term success when it comes to their mental health. The world is at our fingertips, however if you do not feel comfortable relying on information found on the internet, it's ok to seek the wisdom of a professional. Talk to your child’s pediatrician or a family counselor that can guide you through helping your child cope with the world around them.