Are the Kids Alright? Social Isolation Takes Its Toll on Mental Health

The end of summer means fall is right around the corner and kids are gearing up to go back to school. Except this year, not everyone is comfortable in returning to the classroom due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As parents, teachers, and child advocates worry about the physical health of children, the looming question over the emotional and mental well-being of our nation’s children is still a top concern. At a time when we are all feeling unsafe and unsure of what the future holds, we’re left wondering are the kids alright?

No one has all the answers and we are all navigating these challenges daily. It’s no secret that parents, teachers, and child advocates have been forced to be more diligent, creative, and mindful when it comes to a child’s mental health. The combination of financial pressure, loss of childcare, and health concerns is exceedingly challenging for American households. Mental health problems are expected to rise dramatically as a secondary effect of COVID-19, mostly because of the measures that have been put in place to contain it.

Nadine Kaslow, a professor of psychiatry at Emory School of Medicine told The New York Times, “I’m concerned we’re going to have a generation of compulsive hand-washers, that are scared of people, anxious and depressed.” There’s a lot more tension in many homes, she said, with parents trying to stay on top of multiple responsibilities, and children may be witnessing conflict between their parents which can trigger unwarranted anxiety and stress.

A common problem across the country is the communication barrier between adults and children. Parents and youth professionals have found it helpful to use feeling charts to better understand emotions. This gives the child a chance to visually connect to something that brings them joy or sadness, while also giving answers to their caretaker. There is also a free downloadable eBook called A Kid’s Guide to Coronavirus, which has colorful pictures and the answers they’ve been looking for, in gentle and simple language that even the youngest kids can follow.

The most basic activities that we know support mental health are crucial right now. As we head into this school year, whether virtual or in person, it’s important that kids are getting regular sleep, exercise, and spending time in nature when possible. Be mindful what is on in the background of your day when children are present, as news or other media can be disturbing or stressful to youth especially young children. Be flexible when challenges arise, as we are all navigating new routines, changing circumstances, and new requirements. We are all learning as we go and learning what doesn’t work is just as important as learning what does.

Ultimately, what works for you and the kids in your life may not work for others, and vice-versa. Try to avoid comparisons to others, or how they may be handling this time. Comparisons can lead you to feel like you are not doing enough, when the benchmark should be doing what keeps you and the kids feeling their best. Managing your own stress is vital to supporting those around you and will help reinforce the message that we can all take an active role in taking care of our mental health, which is vital during times of change.

While back-to-school will mean something different for everyone, we can all do things to support our children and each other as we continue down this unprecedented road. And although Hawley and Associates does not work directly with children and youth, we take great pride in being a niche insurance broker for youth-based services and nonprofit organizations. We are an extension of your organization and an unwavering champion in supporting the great work you do. It is our goal that all organizations have the tools and resources available to them to navigate this time while mitigating any risks that may arise. If you are in need of specialized insurance for your child and youth services or nonprofit organization, please contact us and we will be more than happy to walk through all of your options.

If you are worried about the mental health of someone you love, you can reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line (text TALK to 741741) to get some guidance on how to get help for you or a loved one.

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