LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Public Relations) — From routine disruption to social isolation — the COVID-19 pandemic has and continues to impact children in various ways.
Added stress can affect a child’s ability to stay focused, as well as negatively impact their appetite and quality of sleep. As a parent, it’s normal to worry about your child’s well-being. But how can you lend support in a positive way?
In the Q&A session below, Michelle Martel, a psychology professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky, shares her expertise and offers tips for helping your child cope with COVID anxiety.
UKNow: We are living in unprecedented times, which has presented unique challenges for everyone. More specifically, how is the ongoing pandemic impacting children’s mental health?
Martel: According to recent meta-analysis, anxiety and depression has doubled in children and adolescents over the course of the pandemic — particularly depression, and particularly in older adolescent females. (Racine et al., 2021)
UKNow: How does stress manifest itself in children and teens? Are there signs/symptoms parents should be looking for?
Martel: Children and adolescents with depression and/or anxiety often present as highly irritable or with somatic symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches or difficulty sleeping. Additionally, stress can manifest in the same ways.
UKNow: How can parents help mitigate their child’s overall stress?
Martel: Consistent routines and quality time with parents and peers can help reduce stress. Parents should try to maintain a consistent, soothing bedtime routine — which might include a bath and bedtime reading. It’s also important to schedule time with friends (in low risk, outdoor settings).
UKNow: COVID often dominates mainstream media. That being said, should parents limit exposure to media?
Martel: If your child seems stressed, anxious or depressed about COVID, then decreased exposure to news coverage would likely be beneficial.
UKNow: It’s often difficult to know how much you should be telling children. What is an appropriate age to talk to kids about COVID? And how should parents respond to questions without increasing anxiety?