I have participated in many conversations about how children are doing academically with distanced learning, or how they are doing socially, since they are isolated from playing with friends as they usually do. However, what about children’s mental health? How are young children, as well as older children, doing psychologically amidst the pandemic? According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 27% of parents reported an increase in their own mental health difficulties and 14% reported an increase of difficulties for their children (Patrick et al., 2020).
It's not surprising some of the major stressors for our children right now are the physical health of themselves and their families, adjusting to distanced learning, social isolation, and worrying about their parents' jobs. For the younger children, some may have returned to school and therefore we may see some challenging behaviors in response to them feeling confused and scared. They were home, isolated for many months, then returned to school. A child’s response is usually related to the stress level of their parents and teachers. Older children, who are continuing with distanced learning may continue to feel isolated and frustrated. When children have emotional challenges, this can affect their ability to learn (Basu, 2020).
What Can We Do As Parents and Educators to Help Our Children?
The most important feeling we can give children is safety. We need to answer their questions in an age-appropriate manner and be specific on all we're doing together to keep each other safe. If you are a parent and have concerns about your child, contacting your doctor, school counselor or psychologist, is good first step. One of the challenges as a teacher engaging in distanced learning is feeling connected to our students. Teachers should intentionally incorporate opportunities to connect during class time. Planning time for children to share thoughts with each other can be enjoyable and provides connection. It also may be beneficial to check in with students separately to be able to identify specific concerns. Below are some resources specifically to help families during COVID:
- National Association of School Psychologists: Helping Children Cope with Changes Resulting From Covid-19
- First 5 LA: Covd-19 Resources & Tips for Families with Young Children
- UCLA Health: Covid-19 Resources
Basu, A. (2020) Kids may face mental health issues as school beings amid pandemic, News: Harvard TH.Chan, School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/kids-may-face-mental-health-issues-as-school-begins-amid-pandemic/
Patrick, S. W., Henkhaus, L. E., Zickafoose, J. S., Lovell, K., Halvorson, A., Loch, S., Letterie, M. & Davis, M. M. (2020) Well-being of parents and children during the COVID-19 pandemic: A national survey. Pediatrics, 146 (4). https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-016824