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Monitoring kids' mental health as the pandemic continues

The CDC said even if kids don't get sick, the emotional, social and mental toll of the pandemic can continue to affect them for years to come.
Credit: Pexels

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Adults are struggling with all aspects of the pandemic. Between loss of life, loss of income, fear of getting sick, and missing the way life used to be, pandemic stress impacts everyone differently.

Kids aren't immune to it, either. Even young babies and toddlers.

The Centers for Disease Control said coronavirus can impact children aside from just getting sick.

"Many young people’s social, emotional, and mental well-being has been impacted by the pandemic. Trauma faced at this developmental stage can continue to affect them across their lifespan," the CDC reported.

Licensed counselor and family therapist Melissa Rose said it's not clear yet what that will look like.

"I would say it'd be extremely rare to find research that was done during some type of global phenomenon that we have right now, so a lot of the things that we know about child development we're having to just kind of roll with it and modify and edit as we go," said Rose.

There may not be a set guidebook on how to help your child's mental health during a pandemic, but Rose said we do know that mental health can and should be fostered from day one.

"There's even infant mental health that's being studied right now and that tells us that mental health is something that we are born with and can be nurtured from the get go."

Rose said children will be impacted by the pandemic in one way or another. For some, the social impacts may already be noticeable.

"We're seeing kids really regressing in a lot of areas. Obviously social skills have been impacted negatively," she said.

That comes from kids staying home and following social distancing guidelines, meaning they often don't interact with many people outside the immediate family.

"When they get out in the kind of 'real world' and they have these social experiences, they have a little bit less maturity in that area."

The good news for parents is this can all be fixed.

Rose said not to focus on hitting certain growth milestones at set times.

Instead, just be there to listen to and engage with your kids.

"If there are delays in those areas then that's to be expected and we just kinda gotta roll with it and we can definitely catch up and address those things when we can," she said.

One way to help their social skills is to act like one of their peers.

Get on the ground and play with your kids. Find your inner child and fully commit to play time not just as a parent but as a friend.

And as school goes on winter break, try your best to keep your kids on their usual schedule.

Sticking with a routine helps them feel more at ease.

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