More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve become familiar with the obvious impact of the virus. Many people are vaccinated and boosted, and remote work and school are more common. What’s less clear is the pandemic’s long-term impact on children and adolescents.
The children’s mental health crisis is worsening brought on by the pandemic. In 2020, mental health related emergency department visits increased 24% for children ages 5-11 and 31% for adolescents ages 12-17 compared to 2019.
With the pandemic, many children and adolescents are dealing with a profound sense of loss, in addition to the usual growing pains. This new, uncharted territory can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be debilitating. Consider these five strategies to support a child in your life.
Resilience is an important quality to encourage children to manage stress and cope with life’s inevitable challenges. Research shows one of the most important factors in developing resilience is a strong connection with a parent, caregiver or another adult. This provides children with a supportive relationship to build confidence needed to prepare for future obstacles.
Validate their feelings.
It’s important for children to know they can turn to a supportive adult for help. Let them know they are allowed to feel anxious, sad, scared or angry. Have regular check ins and allow them to ask questions or share their emotions without judgement.
Model healthy habits.
Children and adolescents look to the adult in their lives for cues about how to feel when facing something new. If they’re navigating feelings of anxiety and stress, seeing how parents and older role models manage their feelings will have a big impact on their own response. Keeping calm and having coping mechanisms of your own can be a learning opportunity for your children. Teach them strategies like deep breathing or taking a walk to manage their emotions and stress.
Prioritize overall well-being.
A strong, healthy body helps the mind heal and provides a nurturing foundation for managing the stress of change. Consider a well-rounded approach to you and your child’s health. Encourage balanced eating, regular exercise and consistent sleep to protect their mental health and physical wellness.
Reach out for help.
If a child in your life is struggling, they may they need more emotional support than you can provide. There is nothing wrong with asking for help.
Oceans Behavioral Hospital’s care teams are offering in-demand solutions for youth in its communities struggling during our nation’s mental health crisis. With an array of mental health services – including specialized care for pre-teens and adolescents that encompasses individual and group therapies, recovery services, skills groups and even mindfulness and art therapies, we’re here to help with the unique challenges facing young people today.