A child’s environment can have a huge impact on their mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic brought a series of challenges that dramatically affected the mental health of everyone, including children.
Some of these problems have arisen as a result of social isolation, while others have arisen due to changes in caregiver behavior. Understanding the issues a child may face as a result of the pandemic can help guardians manage their child’s evolving mental health.
Afraid of the dark
Not only are more children reporting fear of the dark since COVID, but the fear seems to continue beyond the ages that this phobia typically experiences. Some behavioral experts believe this is due to the increase in daily stressors and worry that went hand in hand with the pandemic. Others believe that fear of the dark equates to fear of COVID, as it is both elusive and vague in the mind of a young child.
Children in all age groups have experienced remarkable changes in their ability to pay attention. In a study of health care provider-identified problems, the grouping of attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity was the second most common problem category.
Many caregivers pointed to online classes that affect their child’s ability to concentrate. In addition, the lack of exercise contributed to many references to children being “frustrating” and having “excess energy.”
Changes that affect caregivers, such as job loss, loss of income, household illness and increased burdens, also affect children. Researchers to have noted an increase in feelings of worry and sadness in children, as well as uncooperative behavior. This was most notable in young children living in households where the caregiver was an hourly shift worker.
studies to have found it that more children experience depressive symptoms than is typical for their age groups. This increase was most noticeable in children between the ages of seven and 13, with a fifth of the children showing signs of depression. However, high school seniors were found to have the most common and severe symptoms.
In the past two years, mental health visits have become more common among teens, with women being the majority. Some researchers attribute the rise in depression to increased use of social media, social isolation and sedentary behavior.
In addition to the increase in depressive symptoms, more children also suffer from anxiety symptoms. Younger children often have anxious feelings similar to those of a caregiver, such as getting enough food or a place to live.
All age groups showed feelings of fear of the disease itself, with tension symptoms deterioration when a person had more COVID-positive relatives or friends.
Stress levels and rates of stress-related disorders rose during the pandemic. Many children showed at least some signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while more than 3% met the diagnostic criteria for the condition.
Experts discovered that COVID-related stressors can vary widely from child to child, but the most common are social isolation, exposure to COVID media attention, and constantly changing schooling processes and requirements.
Adolescents of all ages have to experience sleep changes† Caregivers reported that children under the age of seven had far more nightmares than usual. Teens showed more symptoms of sleep disorders, such as oversleeping or sleeping too little.
These sleep changes are directly related to factors such as increased screen time, negative caregiver behavior and increased domestic violence.
studies to have found it that children between the ages of three and six became “more affectionate” after the pandemic started, and many worried about separating from their caregivers. Often it involved an obsessive amount of requests for updates about the pandemic or the health of a family member.
Some caregivers reported that their children slept in the caregivers’ beds more often or wanted more physical contact.
Because of the feelings of depression, anxiety, stress and general worry, many children have to experience eating malfunctions† These conditions can lead to loss of appetite or lead to unhealthy eating habits, such as binge eating.
Some children were afraid of having enough to eat due to changes in the employment of the caregivers, and this prompted them to try to eat less. Changes in physical activity have also impacted children’s diets and nutritional needs, increasing childhood obesity.
Interaction with peers plays an important role in children’s development, helping them learn social cues, adapted behavior and new skills. Due to social isolation, many children show signs of developmental disabilities.
Some caregivers have reported that children under the age of seven have deteriorated by adopting old behaviors such as throwing tantrums or using pacifiers. In addition, sedentary behavior as a result of quarantine had an impact on children’s exercise levels and physique, causing them to to miss physiological development milestones†