As adults, we understand the stress the pandemic has and continues to bring upon us, but what about our children? Coronavirus and child stress is not easy for young minds to understand, let alone put into words.
As we enter our third lockdown, doctors warn that we shouldn’t overlook what our children are maybe dealing with even though they may not be able to express it. Dr Brockman says the prolonged isolation, separation from peers, boredom, frustration, and continued disappointment can take its toll on their mental and physical wellbeing.
“Children are worried about Coronavirus. They see and hear what us adults hear.”
Signs in younger children can include new habits such as hair twirling, nose and skin picking, and thumb sucking. A lot of these are self-soothing techniques secondary to induced stressors such as the pandemic.
Some may miss important developmental milestones or become more fussy, clingy, or difficult to console when upset.
Of course, not all signs are behavioural; some children develop physical reactions such as Stomach aches and headaches. Others have trouble completing a task or become withdrawn, choosing to spend their time alone.
- Restless and fussiness
- Crying more easily and for very little reason
- Separation anxiety
- Waking during the night
- Increase in tantrums
- Hitting and biting
- Play themes or talk about illness and death
Sings to Look for in Teens and Older Children
Teens and older children may show stress signs similar to younger ones, but they may also show distress in other ways such as mood changes such as irritability, anger, and feelings of hopelessness.
Loss in activities such as relationships with family and friends, not replying to messages or engaging with activities such as school or social engagement (video chatting for example).
Other signs can include:
- Disturbed, little or too much sleep
- Changes in eating habits
- Difficulty in concentration
- Reckless and dangerous behaviour
- Lack of effort in activities
- Thoughts or discussion about harm or ending their life
How to Support a Child with Anxiety during Coronavirus
Encourage good sleep and eating routines to boost serotonin levels. Make time, even five to ten minutes, each day to engage with them. The activity or lack thereof, does not matter for they might need to talk or be in the same room as yourself. If you know, they are worried about something, try not to force the topic. Where possible, gently bring it up, allowing them to do the talking if they wish. Sometimes children will feel better just spending time with you doing a fun activity or helping you complete a task.
Be on their level and play with them. Allow them to talk about their day. Expressing interest in what they have to say is important and shows genuine interest in them.
You can help your child cope and understand what is happening around them by talking about Coronavirus and Child Stress and the lockdown. Tell them how you feel and explain that although you are stressed, worried or anxious, too, that you will work through the pandemic together until it is over. Expressing your concerns shows that you are willing to tackle tough topics and are available to talk to when they are ready.
If you need further support or would like someone to talk to, The Devon Clinic has professional talking therapists for both adults and children. Call our office today on 01803 500300 to book your face-to-face, Zoom or telephone appointment.