Updated: Dec 29, 2020
After living through a pandemic for ten months, and quarantine because of America’s lockdown for 3, life has changed dramatically for my family and I. For the most part, I expected work to slow down but instead these past few months have become increasingly intense from the added demands. As opposed to handing one hotel, I’ve been saddled with two, and at times, three, but the added stress from work has allowed me to put certain things into perspective. Being at home with my kids has been such a stress relief that I realized despite all the craziness going on in the world, I will always have my boys to come home to.
Among this, I've also realized that I have to keep a close eye on the mental health of my 3 boys.
Recent studies have shown that elementary and middle school children living through the pandemic may face emotional and behavioral challenges because their normal routines have been disrupted. Children find comfort in a set routine and stability, so dramatic changes may be very harmful for some children. Your kids may seem more irritable, clingy, or distracted but know that this is completely normal as they are just trying to adjust to their new lives and routines.
Things like online schooling, limited social interactions with their peers and a decrease in physical activity all play key roles in how your child might be feeling. In addition to this, factors that have been directly affecting you, the parent, might also be indirectly affecting your child without you even knowing it. It’s important to be aware that any stress you’re feeling, whether it be because of loss of income or any other pandemic related stresses, could be putting unwanted pressure on your bond with your child. This could negatively influence your long-term relationship, especially if your children are at an impressionable age like my boys are; something every parent should be acutely aware of. Child psychologists have been studying for years how adverse childhood experiences, or in other words stress, have been affecting developing children in relation to their physical and mental health.
In a line taken from an article posted by the CDC, it summarizes the main points of this post as well as why mental health among children has become a concern of mine. The line reads, “This report demonstrates that, whereas the overall number of children’s mental health–related ED visits decreased, the proportion of all ED visits for children’s mental health–related concerns increased, reaching levels substantially higher beginning in late-March to October 2020 than those during the same period during 2019,” (Leeb et al, 2020). It is important to note that ED stands for emergency departments, which are often the first point of care for children’s mental health emergencies. The March to October timeframe directly lines up with when the virus became prevalent in the U.S, and considering all the factors I’ve stated previously, it makes complete sense as to why there was a significant increase in mental health emergencies among children.
These facts may come as a shock to some of you, but don't worry! I wouldn’t be Grace if I didn’t at least mention what I’ve been doing with my boys to help them keep up their positive attitudes. We did things like going on walks at the park, playing basketball in our driveway and even decided to have a movie night every Friday… even if it does take us at least an hour to choose a movie. We also had dance offs and made a game out of naming all of the state capitals, many of which the boys still remember. A lot of the activities we did definitely reflect the seasons we were in and now that the winter months are already here, it’s practically impossible for us to do some of these activities. Instead, we play board games, card games and cooking competitions to replace some of the outdoor activities we can’t do anymore. I also read in another article released by the CDC, that things like increased physical activity, keeping children socially connected and just being a good role model can all help children cope with all the change going on right now. Although some of these may not seem helpful, they all help promote a sense of stability and support that children need.
I’m not claiming that I’m an expert in mental health, or saying that doing exactly what i did will absolutely improve your child’s mental health, but I am saying that doing one or more of these activities will help. In fact, I’ve talked to some of my friends, who are also moms, about what they've been doing to keep their kids positive and engaged, and they've been implementing similar techniques. One mom, who has a 4 year old son, said that things have been a little challenging since her son is an only child and doesn’t have other children his age to play with. On one hand she’s working from home right now so she has more time to spend with him, but on the other, he is socially separated from his peers. However, despite this challenge, she instead makes sure to pay even more attention to her son and keep him engaged with activities that they could do together, something that she is really enjoying.
Overall, the pandemic has brought out many changes in my family’s lifestyle. From work, to school to ministry, almost everything is a little different, but I want to make sure that the bond I have with my boys doesn’t change. Mental health, in general, tends to be overlooked, but add the word “children'' in front of that and there’s even less awareness. We should take advantage of the fact that many of our kids are now participating in online school from home, and many of us have jobs that allow us to work from home, as well. Despite being in uncharted territory, and almost everything being uncertain, as moms, we should be certain that we are getting to know our children even more, and our relationships with them continue to grow each day.
Children's Wellbeing During COVID-19: Parental Resources |CDC. (2020, September 16). Retrieved December 09, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/parental-resource-kit/childhood.html
Burke Harris, N. (2015, February 17). How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime. Retrieved December 09, 2020, from https://www.ted.com/talks/nadine_burke_harris_how_childhood_trauma_affects_health_across_a_lifetime
Leeb, R. T., Holland, K. M., Njai, R., Martinez, P., Radhakrishnan, L., & Bitsko, R. H. (2020, November 12). Mental Health–Related Emergency Department Visits Among Children Aged 18 Years During the COVID-19 Pandemic - United States, January 1–October 17, 2020. Retrieved December 09, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6945a3.htm
Rachel Garfield Follow @RachelLGarfield on Twitter and Priya Chidambaram Published: Sep 24, 2. (2020, September 24). Children's Health and Well Being During the Coronavirus Pandemic. Retrieved December 09, 2020, from https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/childrens-health-and-well-being-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/