Is COVID-19 affecting kids’ mental health? What parents need to know

Posted at 11:29 AM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 14:15:24-04

COVID-19 has brought on a lot of stress to the community. The crisis has disrupted routines, which can create stress in kids and teens. We spoke with a psychiatrist on what parents can do to help their kids who may be struggling to adjust.

“The pattern that I’ve been seeing is that the little kids most elementary kids, toddlers, seem to be more resilient. But teenagers and tweens, it’s a little bit harder because they’re very social beings that’s part of this development state,” said Dr. Georgette De Jesus, psychiatrist for South Florida Integrative Medicine.

Dr. Georgette says there are three things to keep in mind when talking to your kids.

First tip is to talk to them at their level about the coronavirus and what the upcoming school year may look like.

“When they’re toddlers it might just be,' you’re going to stay with mommy and daddy at home and learn from here and we’re going to help you'. When they’re older you can go into deeper conversations in terms of why that is, in terms of well the virus is still there we need to stay safe and home or we’re going back to school and this is what school could be looking like,” said Dr. Georgette.

Second, tell them why it’s important to wear a mask.

“Talk to them like they’re in control. If they wear the mask it something they can control in order to help other people and help everybody get through this quicker. So the more you wear a mask, less people will get sick and then they’ll do better,” added Dr. Georgette.

Third, find a way to connect them with their friends. According to Dr. Georgette, staying social but physically distant, is important.

“Talk to them about how they want to reach out to their friends and which friends they want to have communication with. Maybe arrange some virtual play dates or front lawn picnics just to make sure that they can see some of their friends,” added Dr. Georgette.

Don't forget about your older kids either. Even college-aged students are feeling the impacts of COVID-19.

“It’s a lot of high and lows throughout the days, just getting accustomed to spending so much time online. If I want to talk to my friends, if I have to do my work for my internships for my classes,” said college student, Gabriella Carter.

Gabriella Carter, a current student at Princeton University, says the amount of time she spends online is mentally exhausting, but she knows she’s not the only one struggling and is trying to stay positive.

“You’re not crazy, you’re not alone at all and you’re not weak for feeling these feelings. Or taking the big step to tell somebody else about how you’re feeling,” said Gabriella.

Dr. Georgette said the key is communication and being honest with your kids. If you’d like to reach Dr. Georgette or to find all of these tips, click here.