Many of us won’t dispute that 2020 was a difficult year. The pressures that the ongoing pandemic have placed on all of us have been challenging, especially for students. Though things are reopening, that doesn’t necessarily mean a return to “normal.” Indeed, there has been a rise in mental health issues among kids since the beginning of the pandemic, leaving many parents and health professionals worried about the impact of COVID on children’s and teen’s mental health.
According to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) we are now seeing children and adolescents with higher rates of depression and anxiety resulting from the required isolation and loneliness of COVID-19.
Additionally, the latest findings in a new survey released by ParentsTogether are also very troubling. The majority of kids (70%) reported feeling sad, overwhelmed and worried. Nearly half the parents (44%) are saying that their kids are struggling with mental wellness since the pandemic started.
Although almost half of parents (47%) are worried about their child’s mental health, 45% are experiencing more challenging behavior from their kids since the pandemic.
The survey included nearly 500 parents. In it, the parents asked open-ended questions to some students. Their responses give us a clear indication of how young people are worried:
“Before the coronavirus, I got to go to the park and my mom could make money.” – Lisa, age 12, IN
“I miss playing with my best friend before the coronavirus. The last time I was scared was a couple of days ago, I had a bad dream that my dad got sick.” – Marcus, age 8, TX
“I was scared about my family dying from corona.” – Annaliese “Anna”, age 12, WI
“I miss my life before the coronavirus when I was seeing teachers and kids at school. The last time I was scared, I felt scared about my mommy getting sick at work.” – Ishaluv, age 7, IN
Rise of Teen Defiance
There’s no shortage of parents crying out for help right now. If you were struggling with your teenager prior the pandemic, chances are you are at your wit’s end now. From social distancing to wearing masks, teens are not making life easy for parents.
As an Educational Consultant, for nearly 20 years, I’ve helped families of struggling teens. In the past six months, I’ve seen the number of moms and dads walking on eggshells with their teenagers spiking. Defiance, rage, depression, anxiety, rebelliousness – teens who runaway for days only to come back and put their family at risk of COVID.
Some recent comments from parents over the past several months have been:
“His poor emotional regulation has gotten worse since COVID-19 and he is now depressed, feeling like nothing ever works out for him.” – parent of 16-year-old boy
“He has been stealing repeatedly and it has only gotten worse with lying as well during COVID.” – parent of 15-year-old boy
“Depression and lack of motivation due to COVID pandemic.” – parent of 18-year-old boy
“With COVID, she’s acting out aggressively, defiant and always seems depressed.” – parent of a 14-year-old girl
Sharing this information is to help parents understand that they are not alone.
Helping Them Emotionally Handle Trying Times
Everyone is suffering during this pandemic on some level. The ParentsTogether survey concluded that for families making $50,000 a year or less, their children were twice as likely to struggle with anger issues, sadness, loneliness and fear.
Rich or poor, parents are equally concerned about their child’s mental wellness – and searching for answers.
Michele Borba, PH.D., educational psychologist, created a series for CyberWise called Helping Kids and Teens Thrive in Uncertain Times. The goal? To educate parents on understanding the emotions their children and teens are facing during these uncertain times.
“The pandemic has added stress to how teens are feeling. They were already stressed before COVID-19, now it has just doubled because of their concerns and worries for the future,” Borba tells Parentology. “A change in behavior, such as acting out, defiance and tantrums can all be signs your teen or child emotionally is suffering.”
Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to depression and other mental health challenges. If you suspect your child is suffering from depression, ask your family doctor or pediatrician to provide you with a referral to an appropriate mental health professional. “No one knows your child or teen better than you. If you suspect something is wrong, chances are you’re right,” says Borba.
3 Ways to Improve Teen Wellness
Download a yoga app or exercise with your friends (virtually). Here are some great free resources.
Listening to certain music is the second popular answer to what teens said helped them cope with the stress and worry of the pandemic.
Writing is very therapeutic and helping young people express their emotions.
About the Author
Sue Scheff is a nationally-recognized author, parent advocate and family internet safety advocate. She founded Parents Universal Resources Experts, Inc in 2001. She’s been featured on the Today Show, 20/20, Anderson Cooper and more. She’s also a contributor for Psychology Today, NBC’s Education Nation and Today Show Parents. You can follow her on Twitter and join her on Facebook.
COVID Impact on Children’s Mental Health — Sources
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Michele Borba Parenting Series: Helping Kids and Teens Thrive in Uncertain Times
Parent Universal Resources: Help Your Teens