What Does the Coronavirus Mean For Your Child’s Mental Health? Answers from a Child Psychologist

27 Apr What Does the Coronavirus Mean For Your Child’s Mental Health? Answers from a Child Psychologist

According to a 2013 study, 30% of children who experience quarantine during a public health crisis (like the one we have now) meet the criteria for being diagnosed with PTSD. Studies have shown similar effects on parents, as well. This is just one of many factors that have led Illinois to establish the Text4Calm mental health line. Parents and their families can receive emotional support by texting TALK to 552020. This service is anonymous, free, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week

At PediaTrust, we’re here when you need us, now more than ever. A few weeks ago, Shauna Freedman, Child Psychologist and one of our colleagues at Primary Care Psychology Associates, sat down to answer the most frequently asked questions she has heard from parents regarding the Coronavirus:

How can I manage my only child-son’s boredom and overall sadness about being away from his friends? His feelings are completely normal during this time! I would suggest daily virtual contact with friends via video chat. During the video chat, him and his friends can just talk or (depending on his age) set up a special activity for them to do, such as playing a board game together. In terms of boredom, (again depends on age), you can try to make a theme for each day (i.e. silly hair day); Another idea is to have each week a theme of a different country. Throughout the week, your child can learn about the culture of that country, cook meals with you from that country, etc. 

How do I help my 10 year old deal with the stressors of missing special events she has worked hard for, such as her orchestra concert? She now feels her efforts were wasted. It is her last year of elementary school. First, validate that her feelings are completely normal and understandable. I would encourage open conversations with your child, including that it is hard for you that you are missing out on things as well. This would give you the opportunity to model vulnerability as well as how to manage difficult feelings. You can get creative with ways for her to still show off her hard work without the concert. For instance, a virtual concert attended by her friends and family. Since it is her last year of elementary school, the two of you can also make a scrapbook of her elementary school memories as a nice way to commemorate her experiences and reaching this milestone. 

My 3-year old has become very angry. He was initially excited to connect with friends and family over social media and participate in various activities throughout the day. Now he has gotten difficult to engage with and is angry towards us. Please help! That is very common. Children often do well at the beginning of anything because it is new and exciting. Eventually, the novelty wears off and you start to see more acting-out behaviors. Given his age, the understanding of what is going on is limited and he does not have the tools yet on how to express himself in a healthy way. Again, it is helpful to validate his feelings and model for him ways to cope during this time. I would suggest sticking with a consistent schedule every day, making sure he is seeing friends virtually daily, and going on walks/outside as much as you can, so that he can let his energy out.

Don’t forget: Last week, we hosted a webinar for parents, titled “COVID-19 and Your Kids: What You Need to Know from Your Trusted Health Experts!” with our colleagues at PCPA, Allied Physicians Group, and One Pediatrics. If you missed the webinar: You can find the recordings available at the following links:

Click here to view part 1. 

Click here to view part 2. 

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