The pandemic has been hard on all of us in different ways, but it has been especially challenging for young people. A recent Wall Street Journal article took an in-depth look at the toll the pandemic has taken on the mental health of kids and teens.
Some young people have seen their grades suffer due to online learning, while others are coping with increased family stress, including the deaths of parents or grandparents. While young people with pre-existing mental health problems are facing the biggest challenges, the problems are widespread. A study published in JAMA Network Open found that before the pandemic closed schools, 3.6% percentage of children exhibited signs of loneliness. In the months following the closures, that number jumped to 31.9%.
A separate study, referenced in the WSJ article, found that about two-thirds of children ages 7-15 had clinically significant symptoms of anxiety and depression between November 2020 and January 2021. If your kids are having a hard time, they aren’t alone.
What can parents do to help kids who are suffering?
A Harvard study identified several effective ways to promote mental health in young people experiencing pandemic-related stress. Try them with your children, and you may also find them helpful yourself:
- Create a structured daily routine—and stick with it. A predictable schedule makes life feel more controlled and manageable.
- Be physically active on a regular basis.
- Get the recommended amount of sleep.
- Limit passive screen time. Online classes, which are mentally or physically engaging, count as active screen time. Passive screen time refers to mindlessly watching TV or scrolling through social media.
- Limit exposure to news media. The study found that this is especially important with young children.
- Spend more time outdoors and in nature.
If Covid numbers are low in your area and the adults in your family have been vaccinated, you may also want to consider letting your kids be more social. As we’ve shared previously, zero risk is not the goal.
Some children have had a harder time coping with the stresses of the pandemic than others. Signs to look out for include changes in behavior or personality, weight fluctuation, insomnia, expressions of sadness or hopelessness, and isolating themselves from friends. If you think your child may need help, reach out to Better Health Advisors for guidance on how to access the best care.