Across the country, school-age children and teens are returning to in-person learning, but this effort to get back to normal doesn’t come without concerns. Remote learning has left a lot of students with intense feelings of isolation and loneliness, feelings that won’t go away overnight. They may also experience fear of exposure to the coronavirus. Any or all of these emotions, if not addressed, can lead to anxiety and depression.
Harbor Community Health Centers and their providers of advanced pediatric care want parents to know that there are tools they can use to help children during this uncertain time. First, watch your child for signs that they’re having trouble coping with the stress:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Difficulty concentrating or with memory
- Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
- Irritability or angry outbursts
- Changes in appetite
- Withdrawing from friends
- Excessive sadness or worry
If you’re worried your child is struggling, you may be able to help by guiding them in methods of self-care. Helping your child find ways to nurture their own health and well-being can improve their outlook both in the short and long term, and if you participate with them, it can help you, too.
Some ideas for self-care that children and teens can do on their own or with you include:
- Taking a walk or sitting outside
- Making sure they’re getting enough sleep
- Meditation or breathing exercises
- Calling a friend
- Playing sports, dancing, yoga, or any activity that gets their body moving
- Taking a break from smartphones and computers
- Listening to music, playing a game, cooking, or trying something new
“Sometimes changes in behavior can show up after your child has already been struggling with a certain situation. You are the best observer of your child’s behavior and if you are starting to feel concerned about your child, trust your parental instinct to seek out help.” --Dr. Dianne Bohorquez, Ph.D.
If a child is experiencing anxiety or depression that won’t go away, or showing more serious signs of stress, like repeating new behaviors or rituals or suddenly wearing only concealing clothing, they may need extra help, and that’s okay. Our staff is ready to provide pediatric behavioral health services with expertise and empathy. We can give your child a behavioral health evaluation, then work with you to determine if counseling, medication, or behavioral therapies are the best treatment for their age and situation. (It helps teens especially to know, for example, that almost everything they discuss with a therapist is kept in confidence.)
Remember: some behaviors mean that a child may be considering suicide, and should be treated as an emergency situation:
- Giving away their possessions for no clear reason
- Risky or self-destructive actions
- An obsession with death
- A drastic change in personality
- Increased drug or alcohol use
- Lack of interest in planning for the future
- Indirect or direct threats of suicide
If you think your child or teen is planning suicidal action, call the national suicide hotline immediately at 1-800-273-TALK to speak to a trained crisis counselor.
The circumstances that we’re all going through are unprecedented, and it’s perfectly acceptable for your child—and you—to feel lost. No matter what your family needs to transition back to happier times, Harbor Community Health Centers can help. We’ll get through this together.