Pandemic taking a toll on children’s emotional, mental health; experts say

Coronavirus Vaccine

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — We may be heading in the right direction with the coronavirus pandemic now that children are eligible for vaccinations, but experts say damage remains, especially with children. The entire experience, including isolation, loneliness and loss, created stress and mental health issues with young people.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has declared a state of emergency for our children and youth mental health. So the pandemic really has been a huge stressor for our kids. We’re seeing globally that the rates of anxiety and depression in children has doubled,” Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, surgeon general of California, said on NewsNation’s “Morning in America” Thursday.

Most children had protective structures, such as socialization at school, sports or other activities, weakened during the pandemic, which created a change in behavior and routines and led to stress for many kids.

Harris said the impact of stress and adversity on kids could show up in their physical health, mental health, or development.

“So in terms of physical health, it could be things like increased risk of headache or tummy aches, disruption to their sleeve or worsening of health conditions that are associated with stress like asthma or diabetes or other things,” Harris explained.

“For mental health, some kids may be more clingy, some more withdrawn, some may have trouble regulating their behavior or may be more tearful. And kids who have already achieved certain developmental milestones like they were sleeping through the night or they were potty trained may have some development regression. So those can be signs that parents and caregivers can look out for.”

It’s also important for parents and caregivers to remember self-care. Part of that means leaning on your tribe. Reach out to your neighbors and faith community, even if it’s for virtual support. 

“The most important thing is helping them feel safe, helping them feel understood and really just being a safe and stable caregiver,” Harris said.

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