At around 2.2 billion, children comprise 28% of the world’s total population. During this pandemic, these children have silently suffered from isolation and anxiety. Some children were infected, while others may have been living in constant fear of getting the virus. Still, some are worried sick about their friends and the new learn-from-home setup.
Pre-pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noted an increasing incidence of anxiety and depression diagnosis in US children aged three to seventeen. Separate studies done in China and Bangladesh revealed that children’s mental health is affected by the pandemic, noting a high prevalence rate of depression and anxiety.
The youth are not immune from the mental stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainties that continue to face us. While it’s normal to be sad and alarmed over what’s happening around us, a prolonged feeling of negativity may impact our children’s mental health.
Before getting into the matter, it is vital that you know how to distinguish between a child who may be stressed-out or one who may be suffering from a serious mental health issue.
If your child displays any of the signs, you should notify your mental health care specialist or a mental health treatment center such as Jacksonhousecares.com:
- Talking of suicide or self-harm
- Conveying a sense of doom or being worthless
- Drastic changes in mood, behavior, or personality
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Always complaining of fatigue and tiredness
- Aggressive behavior
- Social withdrawal
- Can’t concentrate
- Weight Loss
- Frequent headaches or stomachaches
Additionally, you may support your child’s mental health in the following ways:
- Help Your Child Manage Stress Better
Experiencing stress is an integral part of life and you can’t get rid of it, no matter how hard you try. The best way to manage stress is to control your response to it.
Stress affects children as well, and this is especially true with the current pandemic. As mentioned earlier, there has been a noted increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression among children in China and Bangladesh amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the likely scenario elsewhere in the world, especially in areas where cases are at an all-time high.
This current academic and learning set-up is undoubtedly taking a toll on your youngsters. Ask your child how they’re feeling and help the child identify their stressors. Always support your child’s school needs and provide them with the right tools and mindset for dealing with these stressors properly.
There’s no one-size-fits-all stress management method. Stress relief activities should depend on what works for your child. Some may feel relieved after writing down their thoughts and feelings in a diary, by playing music, watching movies, or baking.
Otherwise, try exercising together for a more unique bonding experience. Physical activities promote the release of feel-good chemical hormones called dopamine, which could help make your child feel better.
- Develop Trust in Your Relationship
A solid relationship with your child also helps develop more robust mental health strength. This may be achieved through building trust. Create a safe space for your child, where they can discuss anything and convey thoughts without being judged, reprimanded for doing the wrong thing, or not thinking straight.
Individuals suffering from mental health issues often think they’re alone and misunderstood by the people around them. Don’t let this happen to your child. Encourage your kids to open up and fulfill their physical and emotional needs. Hold them when they’re sad, feel overwhelmed, or anxious. Laugh with them when they’re feeling silly and playful.
Let them know you always have their back, no matter what.
- Raise Your Child’s Self-Esteem
Helping develop your child’s confidence will do wonders for their mental health. Practice these methods as they may boost your child’s self-esteem:
- Be generous with praises but don’t exaggerate. Focus on the effort, for instance, by saying you’re proud of how smart he/she is, instead of saying he/she is the “smartest kid in the whole wide world.” If your child isn’t the first in his/her class, imagine how it’ll impact your kid’s self-confidence.
- Trust your child to accomplish simple tasks. Being able to finish a task also helps build up a kid’s self-worth. Let your child be your assistant cook, and have your kid wash the dishes. Done regularly, that “Yes, I can” feeling after every small accomplishment will help your child build the confidence in meeting future challenges.
- Limit Your Kids’ Social Media Exposure and Screen Time
The internet is typically used for education, information, and entertainment. But it can be dark, too, and there’s no stopping scammers, hackers, or people with malicious intent to exploit the digital space. Meeting the wrong person over the internet can also lead to serious mental health issues in your children.
With the lockdowns implemented due to the pandemic, children are at home all the time and are heavily-immersed in social media. Impose rules on gadget use and make sure you know who your child’s friends are. It’s never too early to discuss with them the dangers of connectivity and types of dangerous people lurking online.
Limiting screen time won’t only improve your child’s health. It can also contribute to their mental health by knowing how to screen negative news. The aim is not to prevent them from accessing information, but rather to prevent only negative thoughts from sticking into their minds. What you may do, then, is to discuss the news and consider all angles–whether positive or negative.
- Play with Your Child
All work and no play doesn’t just make a person dull, it can also make one unhappy and depressed.
Amid hectic schedules and in between helping your child with school activities and distance learning, find time to squeeze in play time.
Being silly and laughing may boost the immune system and augment your child’s mental stability. Playing may even help your child develop a healthier emotional state and may help them become less susceptible to anxiety and depression.
The benefits of playing seem endless. Through play, children learn how to follow rules, make decisions, solve problems, play with their peers, develop self-control, and handle emotions, especially after a loss.
- Allow Your Child to Process “Negative” Emotions
If there’s one thing a lot of us learned in the movie, Inside Out, it’s how to recover from a traumatic experience by going through the process of anger and grieving, which are perceived to be ‘negative’ emotions that we ought to avoid.
Mental health resiliency involves going through all these feelings, whether it’s sadness, frustration, anger, or grief. By not skipping over these emotions, it’ll be easier for the child (or adult) to recover from unfavorable situations. Mental health resiliency may help individuals recover and move on at a faster pace.
- Communicate Honestly, but Stay Optimistic
As parents, we want to shield our child away from negativity. However, it’s not recommended to mask the harsh realities of life as this could generate a negative impact.
Thanks to social media and the internet, children have access to almost anything. If they don’t get all the angles of a story, it may cause them to take things negatively. Always take time to discuss issues with your child and be open to difficult questions. Answer in an honest manner but don’t dwell on the negative or talk only about the positive.
For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns may have restricted peoples’ movements, but, on the bright side, you get to spend more time with your kids and loved ones.
- Teach Your Child Mindfulness Methods
Mindfulness is the new buzzword in personal development and self-care. Broadly speaking, it’s the practice of being aware of the present moment, and acknowledging the thoughts, emotions, and sensations happening at the moment.
This technique is used in therapy, and is said to be helpful in dealing with negative emotions, especially anxiety. Additionally, mindfulness is believed to encourage a child’s decision-making skills and self-confidence.
Teach your child to remember the acronym, STOP, when faced with a stressful situation:
- Stop whatever it is you’re doing
- Take a deep breath and feel the air coming into your body
- Observe your surroundings, as well as feelings and sensations
- Proceed after processing everything and thinking about what to do next
Ideally, you should practice this mindfulness exercise first before doing it together with your child. You also have the option to combine it with other relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises or yoga.
- Provide a Stable and Nurturing Environment
Always create a stable environment where your child can expect to enjoy your loving, nurturing, and understanding side. Part of this is ensuring that your child feels taken care of and they are happy and relaxed at home. Proving a peaceful home environment not only helps your child maintain physical health but mental stability, as well.
When to See a Doctor
If you suspect that your child may have serious health problems via the signs discussed in the earlier part of this article, contact a mental health specialist right away or seek a referral from your pediatrician.
You may be asked to describe the behaviors or signs that you’re most worried about so it helps to keep in touch with your child’s friends and teachers to know whether there are other red flags that you may have missed.
Mental health issues may be more pervasive than earlier thought. If left untreated, they can have serious long-term impacts on a child. Practice the methods discussed in this article to protect your child’s mental health amid difficult and stressful times.
If you think something is wrong with your child or children, immediately contact a medical professional for help and information.