The pandemic strains mental health for all ages, even children

A local pediatrician shares signs of depression in children parents should be aware of
Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 4:51 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - COVID-19 has put a strain on people’s mental health of all ages, even children.

“I think it’s important to remember that we live in a state of stress all the time and we’re really in an exceptional time with this pandemic,” Dr. Meghan Benak, Pediatrician at Dothan Pediatric Clinic said.

Children express their stress in different ways, here’s how:

“They may be exceptionally sad, they may be more hyper than usual, they’re in a different environment than they’ve typically been in,” Dr. Benak said,

Socializing has been on hold over the last few months to slow the spread of COVID-19, some children have not seen their friends in months. Dr. Benak shares some of the depression signs in children parents need to be aware of.

“It’s not just having a bad day, or it’s not just having a sad day,” Dr. Benak said. “In children things we look for are just lots of feelings of sadness, or they may lose interest in things they typically like to do. Sometimes we can see changes in weight so, sometimes weight loss, sometimes some weight gain, sometimes they may even have issues with sleeping. So they may have been previously great sleepers and now they can’t sleep at all, maybe they are sleeping way more than they used too.”

One thing parents can focus on is coping skills.

“Talking things through with your family, if they are nervous about things and kind of talking about those feelings or if they are stressed out about things, talking about those with them too,” Dr. Benak said. “I think being open is a big part of it.”

Children may feel they have to carry the stress of the world on their back which can lead to having harmful thoughts. If a child expresses they want to hurt themselves parents need to do this.

“Always get in touch with you pediatrician or your primary care provider or if it’s an emergency situation have them checked out if they’re showing those signs,” Dr. Benak said.

Parents need to remind their children what they have control of during this time.

“We have that ability to wash our hands and we have that ability to wear our masks,” Dr. Benak said. “We have that ability to stay six feet away from other people too and always keeping that in mind and reminding them we have that control.”

When preparing to go back to school and getting back into a routine, Dr. Benak suggests parents to establish ground rules for the family.

“Talking about what they expect it’s going to look like but also making sure that they keep in mind that we’re going to need some flexibility with all this too because it’s just kind of a different time,” Dr. Benak said.

Dr. Benak said it is important for parents to be supportive and talk with their children about their emotions and how to deal with their current state of stress.

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