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

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 over these past sixteen months. From adjusting to more time at home to trying to teach our kids how to properly wear a mask, we were all swimming in uncharted waters.

But we weren’t the only ones experiencing these adjustments. Our kids were feeling the impacts of the pandemic as well, whether they showed it or not. Changes like less time with friends, virtual learning and overall uncertainty can weigh on a child. Just six months into the pandemic, Kaiser Family Foundation found 31% of parents said their child’s mental or emotional health was worse than before the pandemic.

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

What mental health challenges are kids facing?

The CDC’s COVID-19 Parental Resources Kit lists 5 things contributing to children’s mental health problems:

  1. Change in routines: Daily routines provide children with structure that can support their development and well-being. Over the past year and a half, those established routines have been greatly disrupted. This can cause additional trauma and anxiety in kids. Children may also struggle with changes to their social routines, with social isolation being a key contributor to mental illness.
  2. Adaption to virtual learning: While many were able to adapt to virtual learning, some kids were not. Inequities in resources, access and connectivity across families and communities prevented some children from continuing their education. Daycare and school closures have also forced children to stay home, while parents or caregivers have juggled caretaking and work responsibilities.
  3. Break in continuity of health care: With many concerned about getting COVID-19, some parents have avoided seeking medical care due to stay-at-home orders. As a result, many kids live with untreated mental health conditions. Mental Health America says 59.6% of youth with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment.
  4. Missed significant life events: Birthdays, graduations and prom, are just a few of the many significant life events teens and children may have missed since the pandemic began. Limited gatherings have affected the ability of friends and family to come together in person to celebrate and/or grieve 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 experiencing economic troubles may feel unsafe. Worry about access to healthy foods, safe transportation, housing, and threats of violence may contribute to poor mental health among children.

What should I look out for?

Signs of poor mental health greatly depend on the developmental stage of your child. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends looking for these signs of anxiety or concern.

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