According to findings published in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health; The COVID-19 pandemic led to significantly increased depression, anxiety, and social risks among children aged 5 to 11 years old. Rates of depression and anxiety increased from 5% before the pandemic to over 18% during the pandemic. This study also examined the negative psychosocial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children; as well as social risks of families throughout the pandemic, with caregivers reporting higher social risks, such as food and housing insecurity, compared to before the pandemic. While many studies are still being down around the long-term psychological impacts on children from the recent pandemic, the data being provided thus far seems to suggest higher percentages of children struggling.
While this is all very alarming to consider, the good news is there are ways you can support your child through these challenging times! Below are five ways you can help.
1. Understand the transition of back-to-school in-person learning
One of the biggest anxiety-invoking situations for a child is returning to a school setting. For a child who is unsure or unfamiliar with having in-person classes; it can be perfectly normal for a child to have some triggers of anxiety. Imagine if the child is in their earlier days of grammar school or has hardly been in school in person thus far and you can practically multiply that anxiety by a few. A situation like this requires some understanding and empathy for the child. Helping the child adapt to this in any way possible through some form of familiarity can go a long way. That familiarity can make a difference to a child going into a new setting they are hardly familiar with as of recently. Many may feel aspects of separation anxiety even, which must be considered in connection to the adjustment being made.
2. Keep a steady routine
Structure can be a great thing for anyone struggling with managing emotions period. This is no different for a young child. Keeping a consistent routine can make a huge difference in a child's anxiety or depression. Keeping a child's routine consistent throughout the day from waking them up in the morning to picking them up from school can be a way of helping them feel some sense of comfort in knowing. The unknown is often a large aspect of anxiety-inducing situations. By keeping a steady routine that a child knows, you are potentially helping to reduce some of their anxiety or depression levels.
3. Model good behavior and practice good coping with them
Children can sense the adults around them’s actions and reactions more than we would like to think. With that in mind, they can learn ways to maneuver their mental health by watching their parental figures manage there’s. There are studies that show that a child often learns at an early age to express specific emotions from a parental figure. If a father has trouble with anger and tends to yell when he is angry, there is a likable chance that the son may express anger in that way as he matures. By trying to manage your own emotions in front of your child in a healthy manner, you may be able to help them maneuver there’s.
Of course, realistically speaking we are all human and make mistakes in ways of managing our own emotions regardless of age. We may try to model behavior for our children, but once in a while struggle ourselves. That is not necessarily a problem if you have the awareness of it! With that in mind, If you are a parent who has even the slightest trouble in this area you can make the largest difference by working on your own mental health alongside your child! It can be as simple as playing meditation videos on YouTube and following along with your child. It can be practicing deep breathing with them, going for a walk, or even using humor. This not only helps the child learn to cope; but helps them see that it is okay to feel how they are feeling and know they are not alone.
4. Creating a supportive environment for your child
How you specifically support your child will depend on you, what your child is experiencing, and advice from your mental health professional. As well as specific treatments and therapies, you can also create a supportive environment for your child by doing activities such as enjoyable activities with them, maintaining routines as mentioned prior, regularly checking in with your child on how they are doing, acknowledging, and respecting your child’s feelings, actively listening, and encouraging your child’s strengths. Supportive and comfortable environments are different for everyone, so whatever that may mean for your child should be considered and implemented when considering this tip.
5. Be aware of changes in their behaviors and if things escalate, bring them to see a professional!
It is important in these tough times especially to be aware of the changes happening in our child's lives. Big changes or small changes; we cannot help if we are not aware. Knowing and watching for these red flags are one of the most important tips to consider! If you are ever unsure or come across these red flags; it is highly encouraged to explore options for your child to see a mental health professional.
Alex Bauman, MSW, CADC