Disclosure :: this post is sponsored by Children’s Hospital.
Coping With Stress and Anxiety in a Post-COVID-19 World :: A Guide for Parents and Children
The past year has been a highly stressful one for children, adolescents, and families as we have managed through the COVID-19 pandemic. Now one year since COVID-19 first began to impact our Louisiana communities, we have lived through many disruptions to normal school life and learning environments, increased isolation or fewer opportunities for peer interactions and social growth, and stressors for many families’ health and financial stability.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, depression was affecting an increasingly large number of people, including our youngest and most vulnerable: kids. Alarmingly, suicide is the third leading cause of death for people aged 15-24. While one in five teenagers suffer from depression, most never receive any formal treatment.
It’s important to know that childhood and adolescence is a critical time in an individual’s life for the formation of self-identity and learning many critical skills which support and carry us throughout our lives. Social and emotional development can be significantly impacted by mental and behavioral health issues, and thus represents an important need for attention.
Depression, along with anxiety, can get in the way of forming healthy self-esteem, learning coping skills to handle stress, developing healthy forms of communication, creating healthy eating and sleeping habits, and maintaining social relationships and academic goals. Many families have experiences where a child’s emotional and behavioral issues can impact family relationships and even function within the home.
Treatment for anxiety and depression can involve a variety of options, including talk therapy, behavioral strategies, and medication management, amongst others. Some signs of depression for young people might include irritability, angry outbursts, sudden and consistent changes in behaviors, isolating themselves, developmental regressions, not enjoying activities they typically do, big changes in their sleep or appetite, frequent tearfulness, or expressing thoughts of self-harm.
Here’s what you can do at home to relieve some of the stressors:
Show children your calm nature – The first tip is to remember to stay calm. As the parent or caregiver, your child is looking to you and mirroring how to react during challenging or stressful situations. What will their memories be like of this pandemic? Did mom and dad keep it together, or did they openly stress out and struggle with the hurdles?
Don’t be too reassuring – There’s a difference between staying calm and easing your kids’ worries and being overly reassuring. The realities of this time of life may actually be negative when it comes to school or your family’s finances. Reassure children on what you can, but if you promise them something that won’t come true, this could enhance their anxieties.
Keep a positive structure – Being constricted to learning from inside the home, or a mix of both in person and remote learning which many have experience over the last year, can lead to many distractions and unique challenges. Each day may look completely different for your child, which can cause uncertainty and anxieties. Keep a strict, yet, positive routine in place, so they know what each day will bring. Try giving your child an incentive, and think about what your family has to look forward to. Do you have something special coming up on the weekend, or are you looking forward to being at home as a family after a long week at school?
Finally, seek help if you worry that your child or adolescent may be suffering from anxiety or depression. Talk to your school counselor, schedule an appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist, or ask your pediatrician’s help in your considering options. We will continue to get through this challenging time – together.
About Megan Campbell
Megan Campbell is a native New Orleanian and loves working within our local community. Dr. Campbell is board certified in child, adolescent, and general adult psychiatry. She received her medical education at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, and then came to LSU School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry for general adult residency, and then a fellowship in Child & Adolescent psychiatry. When not working, she enjoys spending time with her children and family, cooking, and the outdoors. Some of the things she’s looking most forward to when quarantine is over are getting back to live music in New Orleans, schools being reliably in session, and traveling to visit family and friends.