Mother helping son with homework at home

Supporting Kids Through a Continued Crisis  

For children in many Michigan schools this winter, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on their daily schedules. Some school districts have postponed reopening their doors after winter break due to the high level of COVID-19 cases in their communities. Some have chosen to use virtual learning options. And for those able to return to school in person, positive cases of the virus continue to mount in the communities around them.   

After weathering disruptions during the 2020-21 school year, students, families and school staff were all hoping for more stability in 2021-22. But the virus is proving to be disruptive once again, thanks to its continued spread and new variants that have developed.    

The cycle of uncertainty that has come with the pandemic continues to prolong the crisis children are experiencing. Early studies have shown the pandemic is having negative affects on youth: adolescents are exercising less and experiencing more stress. There was an increase in emergency department visits for mental health emergencies among young people aged 12 to 25 years old. And in fall 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association declared a “national emergency” over mental health in kids and adolescents.  

The best measure of protection against COVID-19 is vaccination, and booster doses if you’re eligible. Vaccines for COVID-19 are widely available for adults and children ages five and up. To help our children, we all need to take vaccination seriously – as well as continuing measures that we know keep everyone healthy and safe, like wearing a mask, frequently washing hands and staying home if sick.  

Supporting the mental health of children, teens and young adults is more important than ever as we enter the third year of the pandemic. While none of us were ready for this crisis, those growing up during it deserve our full attention.  

In addition to getting vaccinated and following good pandemic health precautions, here are some ways to support children, teens and young adults during this time.  

Check in with their mental health: keeping an open line of communication with children and teens about how they feel is important. Ask them how they’re doing, and don’t assume you know their thoughts. Let them know that they’re not alone in their feelings, and that you are there to listen.  

Allow them to take breaks: just as adults need mental health breaks, children and especially older teens can face enormous pressure and stress. Help them create boundaries in their lives to allow them to focus on the essentials. This may not be the best time for extra commitments. 

Refrain from projecting emotions: children and teens are already experiencing more than their fair share of uncertainty during the pandemic. They need stability from the adults in their lives. Adults need to keep from projecting their own feelings of stress, fear and anxiety onto children, as it can further fuel doubts and fears. Accept the reality of the situation and find a way to move forward with positivity. 

Look for signs: Signs that stress and anxiety may be negatively affecting a child or teen include irregular sleeping patterns, withdrawing and isolating, mood changes including extreme emotions, physical pain like headaches or stomachaches, poor performance at school, reckless behavior, self-harm, self-loathing and weight changes. 

Give them control: As schools cancel classes, events or schedules change, it’s easy for children and teens to feel like they’re powerless. Empower them to use their energy for something positive in their lives that they like to do to bring joy and feel in charge. Reading, creating, dancing, listening to music, picking up an old hobby or playing sports can be useful outlets. For younger children, letting them make small decisions about their day-to-day activities can help them cope, like picking what to wear, choosing the cups or bowls they use for meals or deciding what books to read.  

Get help: Mental health professionals are available to help children, teens and adults find positive coping techniques to manage emotions and stress. 

Learn more about mental health and options you have as a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or Blue Care Network member to seek help at bcbsm.com/mentalhealth.      

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Photo credit: Getty Images 

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