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Dealing with COVID-19 and our kid’s mental health

Dealing with coronavirus stress and anxiety, how can we help our children?

We know the outbreak of COVID-19 can be stressful and cause fear and anxiety for people, however, our children are very vulnerable at this time as well. These feelings during an infectious disease outbreak is normal and common. But there are things you can do to support yourself and your family. By working together, you can cope with the stress which will make you and your loved ones stronger.

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones. Many people experience changes in sleep, eating patterns, and have difficulty concentrating. Consequently, stress also can cause a worsening of chronic health problems and unfortunately an increased use of alcohol and other drugs.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to support yourself! Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Repeatedly hearing about the pandemic can be upsetting. Be sure to take care of your body by taking deep breaths, stretching, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs. Carve out time to unwind. Do some other activities you enjoy including connecting with others, talking with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

It is important for parents to understand that not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way. For that reason, parents should watch for some common changes in youth. Younger children may experience excessive crying and irritation as well as excessive worry and sadness. Similarly for teens, irritability and “acting out” behaviors are seen. Often these extreme stressful times also can cause outgrown behaviors to return (toileting accidents or bed-wetting). Unhealthy eating, sleeping habits, and substance abuse can also occur. Parents also reported that stress causes children to have difficulty with attention and concentration as well as avoidance of activities that were once enjoyed. Finally, often stressful situations like the one we find ourselves in today cause children to have unexplained headache and other ailments.

There are simple things you can do to support your child. First,take time to talk to your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand. Reassure them that they are safe and as a result, let them know it is OK if they feel upset. Share with youth how you deal with your own stress. Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Consequently, children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand. Keep with regular routines and schedules. As schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities. Be a role model, take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise and eat well. Spend quality time with your child! Check in with your loved ones often, virtual communication can help you and your loved ones feel less lonely and isolated. Consider connecting with loved ones by telephone, email, mailing letters or cards, text messaging, video chats, or social media. However, do not leave out children, allow them to participate as well.

This information is provided courtesy of the Centers of Disease Control (CDC). To stay up to date on the latest formation on COVID-19, visit cdc.com.

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