Many people are feeling the stress of navigating the coronavirus co·ro·na·vi·rus : any of a family (Coronaviridae) of single-stranded RNA viruses that have a lipid envelope studded with club-shaped projections, infect birds and many mammals including humans, and include the causative agents of MERS, SARS, and COVID-19 pandemic (pan·dem·ic) : an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population : a pandemic outbreak of a disease. and its impact on our day-to-day lives, employment and possible health effects. For children and teens, it’s important to consider the effects on their mental health and emotional well-being.
For small children who perhaps don’t understand why they can’t go to school or visit their friends, the interruption in their sense of normalcy can be confusing and scary. The change in their daily routine is disconcerting, and they may act out or regress into behaviors such as bedwetting and tantrums.
For middle-schoolers and teen-agers, whose identity is often tied to their interactions with peers, being separated due to self-isolation self-iso·la·tion | \ ˌself-ˌī-sə-ˈlā-shən : the act of isolating or separating oneself or itself from others. can be especially difficult. Rites of passage like graduating to junior high, taking the ACT, planning for college, living in the dorms for your college semester, or competing in sports all have been put on hold, with no certain timeline for things to return to normalcy. They may shut down, sensing their parents’ worry, become argumentative or suffer mood swings. The coronavirus outbreak can further trigger mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression for youths with mental illness.
A new study polled students aged 13 to 25 about their current mood, and the top three results were “frustrated” (54%), “nervous” (49%), and “disconnected” (40 %).
Here are some basic tips to have on hand in helping children and young adults weather our current Coronavirus reality.
Five Tips to Help Your Children & Teens Weather the Pandemic
Tip #1 Stay Connected
Kids and teens are more in the dark than most of us. It’s okay if your children need to ask questions. They don’t need to know everything but helping them understand what’s going on will help them to cope better. Be honest and age appropriate – don’t tell them more than they need to know. Consider this article from Harvard Medical School on “How to talk to teens about the new coronavirus.”
Tip #2 Keep a Sense of Fun
Make sure to keep a sense of fun in your everyday life, from homemade pizzas to a movie marathon. It can make a huge difference. With the recent circumstances nobody knows what’s going to happen in the future, you should plan for weeks of fun. Dollar Tree and other stores have games and crafts that are a cheap way to have weeks of fun.
Tip #3 Limit News Consumption
Making sure your child is up to date on recent events is one thing, but you should limit your child’s news consumption. This doesn’t just apply to kids. Remember your teens may be following coronavirus news on social media. There’s a healthy line between knowing what’s going on and being addicted. It’s a scary time, and using tip 2 should help you keep your mind active and distracted.
Tip #4 Exercise
Encouraging physical exercise and activity is key to staying sane. Here are some ways to be active.
- Going to the park
- Playing ball, Frisbee, soccer etc.
- Walks around your neighborhood
- Follow Exercise videos on YouTube
- Skipping rope
- Dancing to music
Tip #5 Manage Anxiety
You and your child need to recognize that anxiety is normal. We are made to be active and go, go, go all day. When all that is taken away it’s normal to feel empty or on a repetitive loop.
Here are some ways to calm down a little and have a break from what feels like a never-ending loop.
- Take 5 deep breaths
- Turn off the news
- Acknowledge what you’re grateful for
Name 3 things you’re grateful for, this exercise helps to rewire your brain, the practice of gratitude increases your dopamine production and encourages your brain to seek out more of the same.
- Take a bath
- Talk to a friend
Mental Health Resources During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Life is hard, it’s ok to ask for help. For more information please see the CDC website for suggestions on Stress and Coping during the coronavirus disease COVID-19 \ ˈkō-vid-nīn-ˈtēn : a mild to severe respiratory illness that is caused by a coronavirus (Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 of the genus Betacoronavirus), is transmitted chiefly by contact with infectious material (such as respiratory droplets), and is characterized especially by fever, cough, and shortness of breath and may progress to pneumonia and respiratory failure. outbreak out·break | \ ˈau̇t-ˌbrāk : a sudden, rapid rise in the incidence of a disease.
Consider having your child speak to a mental health professional. Many therapists are using tele-medicine to continue to see their patients during self-isolation.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Healthline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Disaster distress helpline at 1-800-985-5990 for support. You can also text HOME to 741741 to reach a crisis counselor at the Crisis Text Line.