Children’s Mental Health During Pandemic: What’s happening and how can we help them?

 

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What is mental health?

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

It has been a little over 5 months since the coronavirus started affecting the lives of many people. The pandemic has taken the world on a ride of uncertainties and taken away what we used to perceive as normal. One day children were going to school and adults to work, and the next, everyone was advised to stay home. Some children have not seen their friends for a long time or even stepped out of their house since the pandemic started. This may cause some distress in children. Different people react differently to the stressful situation they come across. Young children have yet to develop the coping mechanism to deal with stressful situation. Prolonged distress may result in mental health conditions and long-term repercussions on the functioning and coping capacity. Some of the stressors that they experienced during the pandemic are long isolation duration, fear of getting the infection, boredom, lack of contact with friends, lack of personal space at home or even family financial loss. It is important for caretakers to be aware of their child/ren’s mental health.

What are the tell-tale signs that your child’s mental health has been affected?

When young children feel anxious, they cannot always understand or express what they are feeling. In younger children, you may notice that they:

  • Become irritable, tearful or clingy
  • Have difficulty sleeping
  • Wake in the night
  • Start wetting the bed
  • Have bad dreams

In older children you may notice that they:

  • Lack confidence to try new things or seem unable to face simple, everyday challenges
  • Find it hard to concentrate
  • Have problems with sleeping or eating
  • Have angry outbursts
  • Have a lot of negative thoughts, or keep thinking that bad things are going to happen.

How can I help my child?

World Health Organizations (source: www.who.int) have come up with a guideline as to how you can help your child cope with the stress brought upon by the pandemic:

  • Listen to their concerns and respond in supportive way
  • Give them extra love and attention
  • Have regular routines (create new ones if necessary)
  • Allow children to play and relax in a safe environment
  • Provide them with facts and explain what is going on and give information how to keep themselves safe in words they can understand
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