Children’s mental health a year into the pandemic, and what parents can do to help

As parents, we’ve had to navigate a lot in the past 16 months. From adjusting to more time at home to trying to teach our kids how to wear a mask properly, we’ve all swam in unfamiliar waters.

But we weren’t the only ones to experience these adjustments. Our children also felt the effects of the pandemic, whether they showed it or not. Changes such as less time with friends, virtual learning and overall insecurity can weigh heavily on a child. Just six months after the pandemic, Kaiser Family Foundation found that 31% of parents said their child’s mental or emotional health was worse than it was before the pandemic.

It is now more important than ever to check in with your child to see how he is doing mentally. To prepare for those conversations, learn about the most common challenges that contribute to poor mental health in children. We’ll give you some signs to watch out for and steps you can take to keep your child healthy.

What psychological problems do children face?

The CDC’s COVID-19 Parent Resource Kit lists 5 things that contribute to children’s mental health problems:

  1. Change in routines: Daily routines provide children with structure that can support their development and well-being. In the past year and a half, those established routines have been greatly disrupted. This can cause additional trauma and anxiety in children. Children may also struggle with changes in their social routines, with social isolation being a major cause of mental illness.
  2. Adaptation to virtual learning: While many were able to adapt to virtual learning, some children were not. Inequalities in resources, access and connectivity between families and communities prevented some children from continuing their education. Nurseries and school closures have also forced children to stay at home, while parents or caregivers have alternated caring and work duties.
  3. Interruption of continuity of care: Because many are concerned about getting COVID-19, some parents have avoided seeking medical care due to home ordering. As a result, many children live with untreated mental illness. Mental Health America says 59.6% of young people with severe depression do not receive psychiatric treatment.
  4. Missed major life events: Birthdays, graduations and prom are just a few of the many important life events that teens and children may have missed since the start of the pandemic. Limited gatherings have affected the ability of friends and family to come together in person to celebrate and/or mourn in typical ways. When parents or caregivers experience grief, young children may also experience emotional challenges.
  5. Loss of security and safety: Young children living in families with economic problems may feel unsafe. Concerns about access to healthy food, safe transportation, housing and threats of violence can contribute to poor mental health in children.

What should I pay attention to?

Signs of poor mental health are highly dependent on your child’s stage of development. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends looking for these signs of anxiety or concern.

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