Children today are facing significant challenges that previous generations have not faced. Parents need to become mindful of their child’s mental and emotional well-being to help navigate this unique time. For almost two years, children have had to take precautions against COVID-19 that has affected their social interactions, mental health and emotional well-being. Many of these barriers are causing our youth to fall behind socially. Recent studies show a significant increase in anxiety and depression since the emergence of COVID-19.
When looking at ways to help their children navigate these unique challenges, parents need to listen to their children, provide encouragement, and offer feedback on how to manage stress or anxiety. Parents should be honest about their own concerns and struggles, providing an open, honest dialogue.
Normally, children can experience feelings such as anxiousness, sadness and anger in response to certain situations. However, parents should monitor to ensure that these feelings do not hinder their child’s routine activities. If their feelings of anxiety, sadness or anger become more persistent and occur frequently, it may suggest a larger difficulty. Mental health challenges may present differently in children depending on their developmental stage. For example, it may be considered typical for 5-year-olds to whine or pout when they can’t have their way, however, throwing things or making threats is not a typical 5-year-old behavior. Likewise, it may be typical for teenagers to “talk back” or be somewhat argumentative at times, however, it is not typical for them to make suicidal threats.
Below are some signs that a child may be struggling mentally or emotionally:
- Sudden behavior changes in school or at home
- Intense mood swings
- Explosive anger or aggression
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
- Thoughts of self-harm or death
- Use of alcohol or drugs
- Decline in school performance
- Complaints of physical symptoms such as stomachaches or headaches
- Changes in sleep habits
- Poor hygiene
- Self-isolating from friends and family
- Overall lack of motivation
A child’s mental wellness is an important part of their overall well-being. When parents have any concerns about their child, they shouldn’t hesitate to find help. Talking to the child’s physician or working with the child’s school guidance counselor or psychologist can be beneficial. Contact Canopy Children’s Solutions at 1-800-388-6247 or visit mycanopy.org to connect to local resources. There are many resources available in the community that will help a child thrive.
Written by Shedra (Monique) Johnson, MSW, LCSW, Canopy Behavioral Health Clinic Director. Published in Parent & Kids Magazine.