7 mental health warning signs to look out for in your children during the coronavirus pandemic
- We're all social distancing due to the coronavirus, and it's affecting our daily routines. But for children, this could be a traumatic time.
- Insider spoke to mental health experts who identified warning signs that your child might not be coping.
- For example, boredom, which might not seem like a big deal, could be a sign of depression.
- Experts also advised to look out for changes in eating or sleeping habits.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
In these uncertain times, parents are figuring out how to balance working, childcare, and even home-schooling.
With so much going on, it might be easy to let some things slip through the cracks, especially when it comes to recognising signs of stress and mental health issues.
Karen Gross, a psychological first aid provider, told Insider that Covid-19 and stay-at-home orders are leading to trauma symptoms in children, like dysregulation - "outbursts of anger, hostility, 'ants in one's pants,' throwing, yelling." But there are other, more subtle signs of mental health issues, too.
Insider spoke with experts, including counselors, therapists, and doctors, about what parents should be on the lookout for with their children's behaviors.
Here are seven signs that your child might be having trouble coping.
If your child is having difficulty concentrating, it might be a red flag.
"You may find children have a very short attention span for things which may normally have been mitigated for by their schooling environment that offers more stimulation," Shae Vian, a registered psychologist and founder of Learndojo, told Insider. "They may struggle to focus or stick to tasks, often abandoning it or displaying signs they are unable to listen or carry out instructions."
Dr. Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist, added, "Try to get your child to express their feelings, and to ask you questions that may be bothering them. Get them involved in arts and crafts, playing board games or dancing as a family, for example."
In fact, any change in normal behaviours or patterns could be a symptom of other conditions.
While this might sound vague, try to be aware of anything out of the ordinary.
"Some signs to look for in young children can be as subtle as them being more quiet or withdrawn than usual or in-your-face signs such as a marked increase in tantrums or defiance," licensed mental health counsellor Jennifer Daffon told Insider.
"Parents may see their kids experiencing low frustration tolerance, increased conflict with siblings, and bigger mood swings. Pushing back when it comes to completing academic activities is also common as some kids aren't comfortable with distant learning and having parents assume a role that's been reserved for school."
It's common for children to regress to earlier behaviours like bed-wetting or tantrums when they're under stress.
Multiple experts mentioned regression as a potential warning sign. "Feeling scared is reflected in a child's anxiety, such as hiding under the covers or regressing to behavior from a younger age, like bed-wetting," Dr. Lieberman told Insider.
Therapist Kelly Oriard added, "Stress can cause regression in kids, it is to be expected (i.e., sleep regression, potty training, behavioural tantrums, food intake)."
She suggests "allowing and just supporting unless the regression takes a turn and becomes more extreme".
Issues with insomnia and abnormal sleeping patterns could also suggest a larger issue.
Dr. Ajita Robinson, a therapist, identified "difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and sleep quality" as potential red flags. "We are seeing youth and adults struggle with disrupted sleep schedules and quality of sleep," she said.
Michelle Nietert, a licensed professional counselor, added, "If they aren't getting sleep one night, that happens. If they are losing hours of sleep nightly, it's time to reach out for help."
Boredom can be a symptom of depression.
A marked increase in apparent boredom can be a sign of larger issues, according to experts.
"Boredom can be a symptom of depression, so take it seriously. It could mean your child needs more activities, or it could mean something else is going on," Tammy Baghdassarian, executive director of Keystone Treatment, told Insider.
Look out for changes in eating patterns, too.
Dr. Nekeshia Hammond called "eating too little or too much" one of the red flags that parents should watch out for.
Healthline provided some suggestions to help encourage kids to eat, like limiting mealtime distractions, serving appropriate portions, eliminating mealtime stress, reducing snacks, and involving your children in meal preparation.
Anti-social behaviour could be another sign of a larger issue.
"If they're usually very social, now not wanting to speak to their friends or come out of their room. They may seem distracted or quieter than usual or combative and argumentative," said Baghdassarian.
Gross added, "Isolation can be separation from engagement, unwillingness to participate in family events and staying in one's room and not playing with others."
Of course, all our social interactions are limited, as we're confined to our homes. But many experts mentioned that trying to get your kids to interact virtually with their friends and family is a must.
- Read more:
- Can depression cause insomnia? Yes, the conditions are closely related
- I've been meditating for 15 minutes every day for a month and it has reduced my anxiety and increased my ability to focus
- The foods that fight depression and keep you happy
- A 'grief tsunami' is headed towards the US as the coronavirus death toll grows. Healing will be a complex process.
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