Growing up during a pandemic: How to support our children's mental health
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of our children who are growing up during an incredibly challenging period. While resilient, it's important parents monitor and support their child's mental health. Our expert, Allison Allmon Dixson, PhD, shows us how.
How is COVID-19 impacting the mental health of young children and teens?
The mental health of children has been influenced by several ways as the pandemic forced changes to how they typically grow, learn, play, behave, interact, and manage emotions, according to a recent study.
It's difficult to determine exactly how the pandemic will impact children because the reach of it is unequal - some families suffered loss, some parents are working the frontline, others have lost work and so on. More important than measuring impact is identifying ways to mitigate it and encourage the overall well-being of families.
Still, we know that children experienced distress due to disruption of in-person schooling and activities. Schools hold a lot of resources, especially for those with special mental health needs. Anecdotally, we're seeing increased needs for mental health support.
How can parents support their child's mental health?
Make sure children are exercising, eating healthy foods and sleeping well. Parents should try to participate in the activities that they enjoy and encourage healthy coping mechanisms to encourage self-regulation.
What behavior or signs should parents watch for?
Persistent changes in a child's appetite, sleep pattern and mood could signal a problem.
How do parents know when it's time for their child to visit a Behavioral Health specialist?
If parents are questioning if they should seek out support for their child, it's likely a good idea to seek support. Early intervention and prevention for mental health concerns is paramount.
Anything else parents should consider?
Parents need to take care of themselves. If they are, they are better able to meet their child's needs.