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Helping Your Child Cope With COVID-19 Related Anxiety

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covid anxiety in children

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, children had to cope with a lot of change and unpredictability in their lives. Schools were often closed or virtual, sports and activities were canceled, and even socialization was limited.

Courtney H. Chellew, DO, child and adolescent psychiatrist with Lehigh Valley Physician Group (LVPG)–Muhlenberg, says it’s not surprising that many children are now dealing with feelings of stress and anxiety. “It’s been a tough time for kids. I think all of us benefit from having a regular routine and predictability in our lives, and COVID-19 has been really challenging for children because it’s taken away some of that,” she says.

Recognizing stress and anxiety in children

According to Chellew, stress and anxiety can sometimes be difficult to recognize in children. However, she says there are some red flags that parents may want to be aware of if they think their children are dealing with feelings of stress and anxiety.

  • Isolation – spending more time alone or withdrawing from friends and family
  • Lack of enthusiasm – no longer showing interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Low energy – sleeping more than usual and not being as active as normal
  • Behavior changes – being easily upset or frustrated and crying more
  • Changes in eating – refusing to eat or not eating as much as usual

What parents can do to help

Chellew says that in some cases, coping with stress and anxiety can be a very individual process. “Some people like to paint, some people may like to exercise – and children are no different. Finding a way to cope with stress can be a process of trial and error,” she says.

“I tell my patients and their parents that right now things are hard and that’s OK, we need to find a way to manage that together.”

She does have some recommendations on how to help children if you see them struggling with stress and anxiety.

  • Family dinner – Chellew says family dinners help facilitate conversation and bring the family unit together.
  • Open discussion– Normalizing discussion about mental health to let kids feel heard.
  • Exercise –Physical activity, meditation and mindfulness can help children cope.
  • Limit electronics – Too much time on electronics can make it difficult for kids to develop coping skills.
  • Be aware – Since children often watch the behavior of those around them, Chellew says parents should do their best to model appropriate coping techniques.

When to get help

Chellew stresses that there is help available for those who need it. “I tell my patients and their parents that right now things are hard and that’s OK, we need to find a way to manage that together. I think that depression, anxiety and mental health issues are not things we want to go through alone,” she says.

For more information about stress and anxiety in children, visit LVHN.org/child-and-adolescent-psychiatry.

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In this Article

Doctors

Specialties
Psychiatry (Behavioral Health)
Adult Psychiatry
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Area of focus
Outpatient Adult Psychiatry
Outpatient Child Psychiatry
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
LVHN Affiliates
Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital
Locations

2710 Schoenersville Road
Bethlehem, PA 18017-7384
United States