The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we live our lives, and after more than two years, things are only now starting to return to normal.
While it’s been stressful for everyone involved, children (and by extension, their families) are struggling to cope with exceptional mental health challenges.
Let’s examine how the pandemic has damaged family-wide mental health, the struggles that today’s children are facing, and how to provide support as an involved parent.
COVID and Mental Health in Children
The pandemic has been an assault on childhood development in a number of ways. Adapting to distance learning, isolation from friends, the inability to take part in social activities, and the stresses their parents contend with have made the already confusing process of growing up all the more difficult.
Coping with pandemic restrictions in combination with natural developmental changes has done a number on mental health in children. As such, parents need to pay special attention to their children’s behavior and communicate with them in a way that offers support and understanding.
Signs Your Child May Be Struggling
Often, the signs that your child may be struggling are not blatantly obvious, so it’s important to be aware of the more subtle signs of mental health issues in children. Watch for the following behaviors:
- Significant appetite/weight changes
- Irritability or angry outbursts
- Withdrawing from opportunities to interact socially
- Notable sadness that persists for at least two weeks
- Sleep disturbances
- Trouble concentrating
- A drop in school performance
- Increased instances of physical illness
Additionally, if your child begins physically harming himself/herself (and wearing temperature-inappropriate clothing to cover unexplained wounds) or expresses suicidal ideation, immediate intervention is necessary.
How To Help as a Parent
It’s devastating for a parent to realize that their child is struggling with mental health issues, and any loving parent wants to help their child recover. However, approaching the topic and knowing what to do next is often the most difficult part of the process.
The first step in helping your child is encouraging them to share their feelings with you. Talking about mental health struggles can make a child feel extremely vulnerable, so establishing yourself as a trustworthy, non-judgmental source of support is a must.
Follow this conversation with a visit to your child’s healthcare provider. A doctor can evaluate your child and refer them to a qualified mental health professional. There are several therapy types that young people can take part in, so the potential for recovery is favorable.
One of the best things you can do as a parent is to provide your child with understanding, empathy, and support. Knowing that he or she can trust and rely on you can greatly help children feel more secure in expressing their concerns and pursuing mental healthcare.