As we continue to venture into the unknown around the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is already becoming quite apparent, the impact on mental health. We are featuring a series of three articles, based on information from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that address tips to deal with anxiety and stress, as well as identifying those among us that may be at a higher risk.
Children and teens react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children, if they are better prepared.
Not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way. Some common changes to watch for include:
- Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
- Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)
- Excessive worry or sadness
- Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
- Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens
- Poor school performance or avoiding school
- Difficulty with attention and concentration
- Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
- Unexplained headaches or body pain
- Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
There are many things you can do to support your child:
- Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.
- Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
- Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
- Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
- Be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.
Learn more about helping children cope at https://www.cdc.gov/childrenindisasters/helping-children-cope.html.
If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, feel like you want to harm yourself or others, or need additional help call:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: call 1-800-985-5990, text TalkWithUs to 66746 or https://www.samhsa.gov/disaster-preparedness. (TTY 1-800-846-8517)
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or https://www.thehotline.org/. (TTY 1-800-787-3224)
For the complete article as well additional information on managing anxiety and stress, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html.