HELPING CHILDREN COPE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

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Parents need to watch for behavioral changes in your child

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has done more than just ruin the typical school year for children and teenagers as prom’s, sporting events, plays, concerts and other school or private group activities were cancelled. As weeks have now crept to months, many of these young people have had to deal with a variety of personal side effects from being isolated from classmates, teammates, friends and family.

 

“These truly are unprecedented times,” shared Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little, liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health. “Never in our country’s public health history – including the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic – have young people had to deal with such sweeping safeguards such as social distancing and all the other critical precautionary measures put in place. But we must remember that their mental health is just as important as their physical well-being.”

 

Children have missed out on more than just the cancellation of events and their formal education, but they’ve been deprived of the opportunities to play and interact with their peer’s in-person. Young people risk losing these skills and instead of building confidence they can fall prey to the danger of feeling isolated and insecure.

 

“Children need these in-person interactions,” explained Daniel Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer. “They may lead to new friendships or build important bonds with teachers and classmates. Some of these children may already feel isolated by being separated from family members and relatives, or they’re worrying about getting sick or even the change in daily school routines can lead to anxiety, depression and stress.”

 

But how can parents deal with these concerns? Children and teens react typically on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children, if they are better prepared.

 

Not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way. Some common changes to watch for include:

  • Excessive crying or irritation in younger children.
  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting).
  • Excessive worry or sadness.
  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits.
  • Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens.
  • Poor school performance or avoiding lessons.
  • Difficulty with attention and concentration.
  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past.
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain.
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.

    Ways to support your child;

    • Talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak.
    • Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.
    • Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
    • Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
    • Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
    • Be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.

     

    “As parents, there is so much on our plates during these unique and difficult times, but keeping in tune with your children and ensuring their mental health isn’t being negatively impacted is so important,” added Regenye. “Just referring to some of these valuable tips can really make a significant difference and just another instrument in our tool box to keep them protected during the pandemic.”

    The OCHD is also providing a general COVID-19 Information Call Hot Line for residents and clinicians to answer questions regarding the coronavirus. The number is 732-341-9700 ext. 7411.

    The NJDOH (NJPIES) hotline is available for questions around the clock at 1-800-222-1222 or by dialing 2-1-1. Other related sources; for medical COVID-19 questions call 1-800-962-1253 (24/7) or Text NJCOVID to 898-211 to receive alerts.

                    Additional information can be found at:                          

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at

    https:/ /www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019ncov/summary.html

    or New Jersey Department of Health website at:

    https://www.state.nj.us/health/cd/topics/ncov.shtml