Researchers around the world are seeing increased rates of anxiety and depression in children and teens due to the pandemic and quarantine protocols. In China, researchers found that students ages 7 – 18 were nearly 10 percent more likely to experience signs of depression and anxiety during the pandemic than in years past. In another study of Italian and Spanish youth, 85.7 percent of parents reported changes in their children’s behaviors and moods during quarantine.
It’s no wonder we’re seeing increased rates of depression and anxiety among this population. Kids and teens are dealing with drastic changes and major disruptions to their social lives and routines. Fortunately, there are several things parents can do to help their children.
How to Help Your Kids Cope During COVID
Julie Frumin, LMFT and Life Balance Expert advises parents to consider different coping skills based on their children’s ages and personalities. She offers advice for parents concerned with their child’s well-being due to the pandemic.
For young children
Parents of young children need to practice self-care so they can be as well-rested as possible. As Frumin notes, “Having young children at home all day is exhausting and can try anyone’s patience.” She recommends parents “allow a bit of screen time and take a breather.” Drink some tea, call a friend, listen to soothing music, or take a walk outside when you start feeling overwhelmed.
For school-age children
School-age children are undergoing as much stress as adults. They deserve some slack. Set up a loose routine that keeps kids moving from one activity to another during their virtual school day without feeling too constrained.
Frumin advises parents to “choose your battles when it comes to schoolwork. Remember that the quality of your relationship with your child is ultimately the most important thing.”
Being a teenager is challenging enough without throwing a pandemic into the mix. Offer a consistent time of day to spend together, such as dinner time or watching TV together in the evening. Find ways to connect with them to learn about their world, such as through music or movies. Respect their privacy when they need it.
Recognizing Signs of Anxiety and Depression in Kids
Kids are struggling with mental health issues as a result of desperately missing their normal routines, friends, and activities. They don’t always express it in recognizable ways. Depression in children is often presented as irritability or agitation. Anxiety can present itself as shyness or avoiding activities. Kids may struggle to articulate how they feel, which can lead to even more frustration.
Frumin recommends that parents engage in therapy if they have any concerns about their kids. She says, “If you’re wondering if what you are experiencing is significant enough to engage in therapy, it probably is.” Having someone else to talk to and connect with can be beneficial for kids. Therapy offers a supportive adult aside from mom and dad. It gives kids and teens another perspective, which may differ from what they are hearing from friends.
If you don’t think your young child is mature enough or verbal enough to engage in therapy, consider going yourself! Frumin says, “In my experience, having parents in therapy can help children just as much as if they were to go themselves.”
Therapy can help your anxiety, allowing you to create a calmer home environment for your child. You will gain tools that you can use to ease your children’s minds and help them when they become stressed and overwhelmed.
Resources for Parents and Kids
There are many resources parents can turn to, even in isolation, to help their children manage stress, anxiety, and depression. Taking a break to watch a TED talk on self-care or mental health can be inspiring and calming. Listening to a podcast about parenting young ones can help you feel less isolated and alone. Reading a book about how to show up for your kids can inspire you to keep going and remind you of what your children truly need from you.
Therapy is also an excellent option for many parents and children. Frumin is currently offering consultations through CHLI’s Life Balance Department. For more information please visit: https://www.chli.com/experiences/lifestyle-consultations/