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Strategies to Help Identify Stress and Emotions in Children Amid Ongoing Pandemic

January 27, 2022

Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center, the region’s leading resource to prevent abuse, protect children and heal families, is offering strategies for parents and caregivers to help children manage their stress and emotions as the pandemic continues with the Omicron variant.

For two years, children’s lives have been continuously upended. From remote learning to becoming isolated from friends and classmates, data consistently shows the negative impacts the pandemic has on children. According to CDC data, mental health problems, behavioral issues, and suicide attempts have increased since the pandemic’s onset in 2020. Parents and caregivers can be helpful in recognizing signs of stress. Supporting children with resources to manage emotions could prevent the escalation to serious and sometimes life-threatening behavior.

“As we reach our two-year mark of COVID-19, we must remember that many families are continuing to undergo an enormous amount of stress. While most adults can verbalize their anxieties, our children may not have the words to express themselves. They may show their trauma in different ways,” says Beverly Hutchison, Executive Director at Dee Norton. “From constant changes in routine, to traumatic loss of their loved ones, we must acknowledge the toll this pandemic has taken on our children. We need our children to know their feelings are validated and there are people to help them through this.”

To support parents and caregivers navigate this stressful time, Dee Norton has compiled strategies to identify issues and guide their children in managing their stress and emotions.

  • Learn to recognize your child’s stress signs which can include:
    • Uncharacteristic changes in mood
    • Changes in behavior or withdrawal from relationships
    • Loss of interest in activities
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Changes in eating habits
    • Increases in risky behavior such as drugs or alcohol
    • Talks about death or suicide
  • Check in regularly with your child about how they are feeling with any recent changes. Changes to in-person and remote learning may occur, so sit down with your child and let them voice any frustration, confusion, or anxiety.
  • Reassure your child about their safety and well-being.
  • Help your child stay socially connected to their classmates and friends. Encourage them to reach out in a safe and monitored way via phone calls, video calls, or organize small gatherings as you feel are appropriate.
  • Encourage your child to ask questions to help them understand the current situation.
    • Talk about and validate their feelings
    • Help them express their feelings through drawing or other activities
    • Answer any questions they may have about the virus and vaccine
    • Provide comfort and exercise patience
  • Give honest and accurate information about recent changes. Limit exposure to information that might promote fear or panic.
  • If needed, facilitate access to professional help and distress emergency hotlines.

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