The coronavirus has affected children and youth directly and indirectly, with many feeling the impact of the pandemic on their mental wellbeing. Some of the challenges that they experience come from changes to their routine, not seeing their friends, breaks in continuity of learning, and missing significant life events.
It’s important to be mindful of what kids see or hear on the TV, radio, or online. Information meant for adults may cause anxiety or confusion for kids. Take time to go through information together and invite your child to talk about how they feel. Feeling anxious, angry, sad, or hopeless may be signs they could benefit from extra support during this time. Younger children might not know how to process and talk about these feelings and may show changes in their behaviour. Signs of stress are not the same for every child, read more on common symptoms of stress at Healthychildren.
Maintain a sense of comfort and familiarity by continuing with set structure and routines. This can look like structured days with regular meal times and bed time routines to help keep kids busy and happy. Children do better when their activities are set and predictable.
Help them feel in control. Kids feel empowered when they know what to do to keep themselves safe. Take the opportunity to let your child feel in control by giving them the autonomy to make choices and take steps to keep healthy. Teach them why having good hygiene habits can help keep them safe and healthy. Explain that regular hand washing helps stop viruses from spreading to others, and why we use hand sanitizers and wear masks.
Recent research from SickKids revealed that during the pandemic, a significant proportion of healthy school-aged kids experienced a deterioration in mental wellness, including depression (37.6 per cent), anxiety (38.7 per cent), irritability (40.5 per cent) and attention span (40.8 per cent). They concluded that "keeping schools open safely and maintaining or adapting activities so they can continue to be offered will go a long way to protecting and addressing children’s mental health and well-being".
There are many ways to provide in person or online enrichment for your child. If your children’s school has not yet started in person classes, organizing safe outdoor playdates or video calls with your child’s friends can help alleviate anxiety and loneliness while waiting for schools to reopen. Online craft sessions can be done together, or even organizing an online book club for a few friends to participate in.
If you are concerned about your child, speak with your pediatrician as they can give you guidance on ways to best support your child and help them build resilience.
GOeBlogger is a health enthusiast and avid reader living and thriving in vibrant Vancouver. When she's not nerding out at her laptop, you can find her exploring the beautiful BC coastline with her dog.
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