What to look for?
- Children aged 4-7 years tend to express stress through regression, such as bed wetting or temper tantrums, and separation anxiety.
- In the 7-10 age group, children can pick up on stress from those around them and may become fearful for their own health or loved ones. They may ask questions on if a loved one will get sick or even die. They are not fully capable of expressing emotions, so they may express anger or irritability.
- For those with summer school, children may struggle with the online curriculum and with keeping up with school work.
- Teenagers may be especially impacted by the social distancing as they lose sporting events, graduations, and summer plans with friends. They may display symptoms such as listlessness and lack of motivation and isolation.
- Look out for these symptoms:
- Physical complaints (e.g. stomachaches, headaches, etc.)
- Social withdrawal from family members or peers
- Academic decline
- Substance use. While some level of experimentation may be normal in adolescence, depressed youth are likely to attempt to self-medicate by using these substances.
- Self-criticism. An increase in frequency and intensity of negative self-statements, such as “I’m so stupid!” or “I can’t do anything right!” may also be a sign of depression.
*Most teens are likely to display one or two of these behaviors at some point in adolescence normally, but if these changes are happening more rapidly, more consistently, or are occurring at once, parents should discuss with their child’s doctor.
What to do?
If you fear your child may be depressed or overwhelmed with anxiety, seek advice from your doctor. If you are worried your child may hurt themselves or others, please call 911 immediately.
- Routine is the most important thing during these uncertain times. Help your child maintain a daily routine with consistent sleep, activity, and study patterns if applicable. This routine does not need to mirror a pre- Covid routine.
- Provide age appropriate information to children about the pandemic. Rumors or misinformation may be fanning the flames of their worries. Show things they can do to help keep themselves safe, such as proper hand washing.
- Encourage social connection through video calls or appropriate social distancing activities, such as an outdoor picnic with friends.
- Use online resources, such as the Smiling Mind app, for meditation.
- The Growing Happy Card Deck or YogaKids Toolbox may help children reduce stress hormones.
- Limit coffee and energy drinks as these can increase feelings of anxiety.
- Promote physical activity to help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, from doing a YouTube dance class to taking a family bike ride.
You can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text MHFA to 741741 to talk to a Crisis Text Line counselor. There are also online counselors your child may speak with.