How to protect your children’s mental health during this pandemic

Today, 99% of the world’s children live under some form of pandemic-related movement restriction; 60% live in countries under full or partial lockdowns and 1.5 billion children are out of school, according to weforum.org.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of children’s lives: health, development, learning, behavior, their families’ economic security and their mental health, prompting them to worry about themselves and their families, as shown by a Common Sense Media Poll conducted March 24 – April 1, 2020, among 849 teenagers ages 13-17 in the United States.

Thus, 61% percent of respondents said they worry that they or someone in their family will be exposed to the virus, and 63% fear the effect it will have on their family’s ability to make a living. Forty percent of teens say they feel more connected than usual with their families.

Social media and texting are their ways of coping with the imposed social distance – 65% talk to friends or family more than before and 37% have reached family members they haven’t talked to in a while.

But technology is not totally helping them cope with loneliness and the frustration of this new world of distance learning and relationships. Some 48% of teens say they feel less connected than usual with their friends and 42% feel “more lonely than usual”. Slightly more than half of teens who no longer attend school in person say they are worried about not being able to keep up with their schoolwork (56%) and their extracurricular activities (55%) while in-person school activities are canceled. Forty-one percent haven’t attended an online or virtual class since in-person school was canceled.

Not all adolescents respond to stress in the same way, but if you, as a parent, recognize changes in their behavior, you might find useful these UNICEF recommendations about how to protect your children’s mental health during this pandemic:

  • Take some time to talk to your child about the COVID-19 pandemic. Answer their questions and share facts about COVID-19.
  • Convince your child that they are safe. Let them know it’s okay if they feel upset. Share with them how you cope with your own stress.
  • Limit your family’s exposure to news, including social media. Children can misinterpret what they hear and may fear something they do not understand.
  • Try to maintain regular routines. Make a schedule of work activities and relaxing or fun activities.
  • Be a role model. Rest, sleep, exercise and eat well. Connect with friends and family members.

Children thrive when they are safe and protected. During these times, the challenges families face may seem harder than ever. But we’ll get through together.

Stay safe!

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