Mental Health of Children and Adolescents During COVID-19
The novel coronavirus has brought about change for all of us; however, children have been especially affected by the tumultuous events of the past several months. In addition to facing unique challenges and severe complications upon contracting COVID-19, young people have also faced a complete disruption of routine and increased levels of stress. Today, we’ll explore how the novel coronavirus has affected the physical and mental health of children and adolescents.
How Children and Adolescents Experience COVID-19
While initial reports indicated that young people generally experienced less severe symptoms of coronavirus, new data has changed the picture of who is vulnerable. As testing ramps up, it has become clear that younger people are also getting COVID-19, and some are requiring intensive care upon hospitalization. Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H., The Director of Clinical Research from Johns Hopkins, states that it’s possible that young people who vape could be at increased risk for more severe cases of the novel coronavirus.
Additionally, children could face unique symptoms upon contraction of COVID-19. A rare but serious complication has been observed in young people: a condition characterized by lengthy fevers, stomach upset, low blood pressure, red eyes, rashes, and inflammation of the heart and its arteries. Pediatricians have named the new health issue PMIS, which is short for pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome. Some scientists believe this is a more severe form of Kawasaki disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have now warned doctors and parents to watch for signs of this disturbing condition.
These life-threatening symptoms, in combination with the possibility of infecting older family members, illustrate the importance of proper hygiene and precautions in young adults, adolescents, and children. We’ve previously posted an article containing guidelines for speaking to your child about the dangers of COVID-19; it also contains helpful safety information from the CDC. Please consider sharing this with your teen or child if you have not already.
The Impact of Coronavirus on Mental Health in Young People
During the first months of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, studies indicated that the average posttraumatic scores were four times higher in children who were quarantined than those who were not. This implies that the psychosocial stress can be caused by confinement and isolation could worsen a child’s physical and mental health. As schools, businesses, restaurants, and recreational centers remain closed, it is vital for parents to equip themselves to deal with the potential ramifications of COVID-19 on their child’s well-being.
Adolescents, specifically, face notable challenges during this worldwide pause. Major milestones, such as proms, homecoming ceremonies, recitals, graduations, and more, have all been cancelled or transferred to a video format. Socializing, too, has evolved to meet social distancing guidelines. Instead of driving to the mall or catching a movie with classmates, today’s teen may FaceTime a friend or text constantly throughout the day.
Teenagers are also experiencing COVID-19 during a critical point in their emotional development. Hormones introduce a spectrum of intense emotions, ranging from anger and fear to sadness and grief, which can only be amplified by present events.
With these issues in mind, it is vital that parents should be equipped with resources to help their children and adolescents to deal with current events.
Helping Children and Adolescents Cope
Preliminary reports indicate that the primary issues facing children during COVID-19 are the loss of routine and variety. The Child Mind Institute (CMI) has released tips for helping children and adolescents to overcome school closures, disappointment, and loneliness.
First, they recommend keeping a regular schedule in place, providing your child with a reasonable amount of structure and consistency. Knowing what’s going to happen and when can be especially helpful for younger, more anxious children.
CMI also advises parents to come up with a wide range of creative activities and exercises to occupy your child’s mind and body during long days of self-quarantine. Experts state that it’s time to go “back to the 80s” with respect to the amount of screen time each child receives, instead favoring board games, imaginative play, and household projects.
Next, limit your family’s news consumption. While staying informed is important, an endless stream of news stories can disrupt family time and increase anxiety for all members of the household. Managing your own nervousness can also go a long way toward calming children and teens, who look to you for clues about how concerned they should be.
Finally, be sure that you’re speaking to your child in a clear and reasonable way about current events. They don’t need to know every nuance of current events; rather, their understanding of COVID-19 should be age-appropriate and simplified. Older children can handle (and expect) more detail, but be mindful of what you share with your younger ones.
Evidence-Based Care for Children and Adolescents
At Pine Grove, we provide advanced treatment for the mental health of children and adolescents. These services are available on an inpatient or outpatient basis, and our staff can help you to address parent-child relationships, grief and loss, mood disorders, technology addiction, and more. If your child requires support, please contact us today by calling 1-888-574-4673.