With an increasing number of states issuing shelter on site orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic, more and more Americans are following self-isolation and social distancing practices in an attempt to help flatten the curve. As a result, some may notice an impact on their mental health, with a psychotherapist saying“The unprecedented stress of what we are all going through right now is felt by everyone.”
And this stress can also be felt by children.
Fox News spoke with Dr. Tali Raviv, associate director of the Center for Childhood Resilience at Chicago’s Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, on how the pandemic could affect children’s mental health. Read on to see the signs that a child may be mentally distressed and how to help them.
Fox News: What are the signs that a child’s mental health may be suffering?
Dr. Tali Raviv: In times of stress and disrupted routines, it is normal for people of all ages to experience signs of distress. For young children, this can include increased grip, tears, nightmares or tantrums. You can also see children picking up on behaviors that they had previously “passed”, such as sucking their thumbs or wetting their beds.
For older children and adolescents, you may see physiological changes, such as changes in sleep or appetite, reduced energy, or increased physical symptoms such as headache or dizziness. ‘stomach. Cognitive or thinking changes are also common and can include forgetfulness and distraction. Some children or adolescents may become more withdrawn or socially isolated. Finally, growing concerns about health and the future are also common. Although all of these reactions are normal, parents should observe their child’s behavior and notice the changes so that they can support their adjustment.
Fox News: If a child has a pre-existing mental health problem, what additional precautions should a parent or guardian take during this time?
Raviv: All children may experience temporary increases in distress due to the COVID-19 situation. However, children with pre-existing mental health needs may be particularly vulnerable. The most important thing parents should do is to watch their child and note any increase in symptoms.
When possible, families should try to maintain elements of their child’s treatment plan, including continuing to take any prescribed medication and maintaining long-distance contact with their child’s mental health team. Many therapists and psychiatrists have switched to telehealth operations, and scheduling remote recordings with these providers can help support positive coping strategies and watch for signs of worsening mental health.
Fox News: Could the pandemic have lasting effects on children’s mental health even after it ends?
Raviv: The vast majority of young people will be resilient to stress or even severe trauma. However, some children may experience lasting effects on mental health. This becomes more likely if they have been directly threatened for their own safety (such as not having enough food or stable shelter, being very sick themselves, or seeing a loved one very sick) or suffering death or death. loss due to coronavirus. Children with pre-existing mental health problems are also more at risk of having more lasting mental health problems.
Fox News: How can you help your child during this time?
Raviv: There are three key elements to support children’s resilience to stressful circumstances. The first is to provide physical and emotional security. This includes meeting their physical needs (food, shelter, healthcare) as well as emotional security by providing accurate information in age-appropriate language, limiting exposure to media coverage, and creating or restoring familiar structure and predictable routines.
Second, building and maintaining healthy relationships. This includes building and strengthening relationships with supportive adults such as caregivers, family members, teachers and coaches, and peers. In addition, connecting to a larger community, such as faith groups or schools, can also help children build resilience.
Third, supporting and teaching coping skills and regulating emotions are important for building resilience to this and other stressors. This includes helping children learn to express their emotions in words, engaging in positive activities, using relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, accessing social support and problem solving. Keeping in mind these three key things can help children not only get through this stressful time, but also grow and prosper.
Fox News: When should a parent or guardian seek help from a pediatric psychologist?
Raviv: Signs that a child may need professional help include behavioral changes that last more than a month. If more pressing concerns arise, such as thoughts of death or suicide, self-injurious behavior, panic attacks, or serious physical or verbal assault that threatens their safety or that of those around them, contact their pediatrician or their mental health provider for advice. . In cases where the behavior is urgent or potentially fatal, families must contact 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
Fox News: How should you help a child cope with isolation?
Raviv: Humans are social creatures, and social connection is essential to maintain. Consider including a daily “family reunion” in your schedule, which could also include time to connect remotely by phone or video call with distant family members. It is also important to maintain a connection with peers, classmates, teachers, faith groups and neighbors. Text, email, letter writing, telephone or video calls are all perfect for this.
Neighborhood activities such as stuffing the sidewalk with messages or participating in a neighborhood treasure hunt and posting photos can also be creative ways to keep in touch while staying socially distant.