It’s been over two years since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Mental health challenges and demand for psychological services are at an all-time high, especially among kids. With the lifting of mandatory mask-wearing and school extracurriculars back on, many children are still grappling to cope with a life that suddenly stopped in March 2020.
- Children’s Behavioral Health: Mental Health Challenges Continue
- Parenting Guidance: How to Cope With Unique Parenting Challenges in 2022
- Encourage Expression and Openness
- Make Sure They Get to Connect With Their Friends
- Focus on Being Positive
- Be Sure to Explain COVID-19
- Strive to Be the Kind of Person You Want Your Child to Be
- Praise Your Child
- Let Your Child Make Mistakes and Explain Why Certain Behavior is Bad
- Encourage Creativity
- Forgive Yourself When You Make Mistakes
- Small Wins: Parenting After COVID-19
Children’s Behavioral Health: Mental Health Challenges Continue
Kids of all ages, including those who seemed to have it “easy” during the pandemic, are experiencing many mental health challenges. Data from the CDC shows that more than a third of high school students reported poor mental health during the pandemic.
In October 2021, UNICEF issued a flagship report warning that children and young people might continue experiencing COVID-19-induced mental health challenges for years to come.
As the world moves forward, things are getting better, and on so many fronts, normalcy is returning. However, this isn’t the case for many kids and adults. One in every seventeen- to nineteen-year-olds experiences a mental disorder. Mental health has always been a concern, even before COVID-19.
For many, the pandemic has magnified mental health issues. Deviation from routine, remote schooling, and family health problems create stress. Other kids who may have enjoyed the slow-paced pandemic life could now be having a hard time with re-entry.
So, even if things are slowly returning to normal, the transition might be difficult for kids and parents alike. And it doesn’t help that children have had to deal with other global issues during the pandemic like:
- Increased police brutality against the Black American community.
- COVID-related violence against Americans of Asian origin.
- Increased gun violence.
- Growing climate change concerns.
- Emotionally charged conspiracies and misinformation.
- Let Your Child Make Mistakes and Explain Why Certain Behavior is Bad
All these issues, plus the effects of the pandemic, have affected the emotional and mental well-being of children and young people. The need to address our children’s mental health is stronger than ever.
Parenting Guidance: How to Cope With Unique Parenting Challenges in 2022
Over 140,000 children in the United States have experienced the death of someone close, like a parent, grandparent, or caregiver, since covid struck. Families have also lost jobs and vital support like healthcare services, schools, and community programs.
Many people have also experienced increased racism and prejudice during the pandemic, bringing mental health challenges to an all-time high.
So, how do you deal with all these unique challenges in 2022 when caring for children?
Encourage Expression and Openness
As a mom, the best thing you can do for your child post-covid is to encourage them to be open and express their feelings. Keep in mind that teenagers and younger children express emotions differently.
For instance, younger children may have difficulty discussing or understanding their feelings, while teenagers may try hiding them. So, what do you do? Always check in with your kid and remind them that you are there if they want to talk.
Make Sure They Get to Connect With Their Friends
Even as the world goes back to normal, social distancing is encouraged. But social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Children need quality time with people they care about. This could be friends, grandparents, cousins, or caregivers. Find creative ways for your child to remain connected with those important to them, like online video chats and writing letters.
Focus on Being Positive
We are still living through a difficult time, and it’s easy for despair to creep in. To help yourself feel better, focus on what you are grateful for. Sure, the pandemic came with so many negatives, like family loss, job uncertainty, and the additional challenges of parenting. Practicing gratitude can help boost your sense of well-being.
Be Sure to Explain COVID-19
Children, especially the young ones, may not understand the covid pandemic. Talk to your child about all the frightening news they hear. It’s okay to talk to them about people getting sick, but explain that safety precautions like social distancing and handwashing can keep them safe.
Let them know about important dates like Handwashing Awareness Week. Also, explain that the pandemic has nothing to do with how someone looks or where they come from.
Strive to Be the Kind of Person You Want Your Child to Be
Covid fatigue has affected many people, and it can be challenging to stay positive when you are struggling with stress yourself. But here is the thing: As a parent, you set the tone in your home, and children tend to copy what they see. How you express fear and doom may impact your children in the long run. Take care of yourself. If possible, join a parent support group to help you cope with your mental health.
Praise Your Child
Children have already gone through so many disruptions due to the pandemic. These disruptions can breed negative behavior. Always praise them when they do something good. Reinforce good behaviors by pointing them out and discouraging bad behavior.
Let Your Child Make Mistakes and Explain Why Certain Behavior is Bad
Everyone is worried and anxious, even as we return to normalcy after the pandemic. Children might not have the right words to express their feelings. Because of that, they are likely to act out their anxiety, stress, and fear through destructive behaviors. The best thing you can do is leave room for them to make mistakes. Knowing when to respond can encourage good behavior. If you have to respond, apply positive discipline to redirect bad behavior.
Digital distractions were rampant during the pandemic as screen time increased to compensate for the lack of contact hours. While the use of digital technology has a positive effect, prolonged screen time use can have negative implications on a child’s physical and mental well-being.
With schooling returning to normal, getting children away from the screen is challenging but not impossible. Encourage creativity in your young children and teenagers. Outdoor activities for kids, like outside play, modeling clay, blocks, games, art, and music, are an excellent place to start.
Forgive Yourself When You Make Mistakes
Parents make mistakes from time to time. Feelings of anxiety, depression, hopelessness, and even anger are normal reactions to stress. After all, while the worst has passed, many still feel the effects of COVID-19 every day. Learn to forgive yourself when that stress takes a toll on you.
Small Wins: Parenting After COVID-19
Parenting in 2022 requires a different approach. Parenting has become even more challenging. You don’t know if your child is doing okay with all the horrible news they keep seeing most of the time.
As normalcy slowly creeps in, how do you cope with your kids’ challenges during and after quarantine? How do you adjust as a parent? Right now, the most important thing you can do is take care of the mental health challenges your kids, and even yourself may be facing and move forward together.