*Please note this article comes from the June 2020 issue of AARP and I give them full credit for the information.
When the Kids Aren’t Alright
For adults, the COVID-19 crisis and social-distancing measures have taken a toll mental and emotional health. But the crisis also has been difficult to process for kids and teens.
Recognizing that your child is experiencing anxiety, stress or depression isn’t always straightforward. Not every anxious child is a tense ball of nerves and not every depressed child cries often. How, then, do parents know when their kids are struggling with emotions and how do they talk to them about it?
Signs of a Mental Health Issue:
The first sign that a child may be contending with a mental health issue is a sudden change in behavior that is outside the developmental norm for the child’s age, says Lauren Kaczka-Weiss D.O., a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
“For example, if your teen is suddenly avoiding texting or video chatting with friends or has dropped a favorite activity without explanation, that could be a sign that something is amiss,” Dr. Kaczka-Weiss says.
In younger children, depression, anxiety and stress may show up as complaints about headaches and stomachaches. However, don’t assume that your child’s headache or stomachache is being caused by a mental health issue. Dr. Kaczka-Weiss says. It could very well be a physical ailment. She recommends checking in with your child’s pediatrician to talk about what you’re seeing and what your next steps should be.
How to talk your child about Mental Health:
“When talking to children about anxiety, stress or depression, it’s best to be honest and straightforward and to communication with your child at an age-appropriate level,” Dr. Kaczka-Weiss says.
*For children under 6 years: Use drawings of smiley or sad faces to try to tease out what they are feeling.
*For children between 6 and 12 years: You can talk about feelings, Dr. Kaczka-Weiss says children at this age can understand the difference between frustration and anger. They can communicate “I’m just really frustrated, Mom.”
*For Teens: Assessing what’s going on with your teen may be more of a challenge but being honest-telling your teen how nervous you’re feeling about broaching the conversation-may help you both ease into a frank conversation.
What it’s always appropriate to seek professional help. Dr. Kaczka-Weiss suggests these coping techniques.
*Deep breathing: when your child feels overwhelmed, encourage them to inhale through the nose, like they are deeply smelling a flower and exhale through the mouth, like they are slowly blowing out birthday candles.
*Counteracting negative self-talk: when you hear your child say something negative about themselves, return it with a positive trait that your love about them and tell them to repeat after you.
*Exercise: a quick walk or a game of catch are great ways to get out of the house and spend quality time with the family.
*Meditation: mediation helps kids slow down thoughts, focus on breathing and visualize themselves in a positive light.
Go online to learn more about caring for your mental well-being or your children’s at HMHforU.org/MentalHealth.
Disclaimer: This article was taken from a recent of AARP June 2020 magazine and I give them full credit for the article.