As research shows that pandemic lockdown could lead to mental health problems in children, UK charity YoungMinds outlines warning signs to look out for.

Many parents will be concerned about their children’s risk of contracting coronavirus, but experts have warned that they should also be concerned about their children’s mental health due to confinement measures, which in many countries are not entirely clear, and the future prospects they are diffuse and generate uncertainty.

67% of those surveyed agreed that they are concerned about the long-term impact of the coronavirus on the mental health of their children. This increased to 77% among parents and caregivers whose children had required mental health support in the past three months.

Confinement and the increased rate of depression in youth and children

A new review suggests that children and youth are likely to experience high rates of depression and anxiety long after confinement ends, concluding that lonely youth could be three times more likely to develop depression later in life, and that the impact in mental health the pandemic could last 10 years

Clinical psychologist Dr. Maria Loades of the University of Bath in England, who led the review of more than 60 studies on topics such as isolation, loneliness and mental health for people between the ages of 4 and 21, says:

“ From our analysis, it is clear that there are strong associations between loneliness and depression in young people, both in the short and long term. We know that this effect can sometimes be delayed, which means it can take up to 10 years to really understand the magnitude of the impact on mental health that the Covid-19 crisis has created. ‘

And it’s not just experts who are concerned about the impact of the pandemic – a study of parents and caregivers by UK charity YoungMinds found that 67% were concerned about the long-term impact on their children’s mental health.

“We know that many children and young people have had trouble adjusting to the changes brought on by the pandemic, ” says Tom Madders, YoungMinds campaign manager. Whether it’s because they miss friends, have had trouble coping without the structure of the school, or have lost their coping mechanisms or professional support, the crisis has put additional pressure and anxiety on many young people.

As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, some may find it difficult to readjust after being isolated, or are coming to terms with much more uncertainty about their future. If you are concerned about how your child is dealing with the confinement, seeking professional help may be possible.

Typical reactions of a child affected by confinement

According to YoungMinds.org.uk, these are some signs that a child is being affected by the confinement after the Covid-19 pandemic :

  1. Persistent Changes in Mood or Behavior: As parents it is important to try to keep the routine regarding the family as consistent as possible, children can really benefit from routine stability when struggling with feelings or emotions.
  2. Withdrawal: Children and youth struggling with anxiety and emotional conflicts may have difficulty communicating. Try to open up conversations about what they are involved in and what they are generally interested in.
  3. Lack of joy : young people may not find joy or satisfaction in things they generally enjoy, although this may also be conditioned by changes related to adolescence, confinement is also another very influential aspect.
  4. Lack of sleep : There may be a change in things like your child’s sleeping or eating habits.
  5. Lack of focus : children and young people may have difficulty concentrating, this can be a sign of problems related to confinement, as an indirect manifestation of the emotional burden that means breaking all routines and having anxiety about their uncertain future .
  6. Lack of interest : They may have no interest in school work or play, or spending time with people. Even the tasks that connected you with creativity, with the search for well-being can become secondary, or be denied completely.
  7. Boredom: They may complain of feeling bored or lonely, even when they have friends. Try to spend some quality time that you can spend together and do something that you enjoy.
  8. Irritability: they may be more irritable and moody than usual, however, these can also be effects related to the stage they live in because of their age, so you have to consider several possibilities.
  9. Sadness – Children may cry or just look sad or withdrawn.
  10. Lack of confidence: they may have less confidence in themselves than normal, which makes it difficult for them to develop in some tasks or activities that they previously did very easily.

As parents, we need to be part of the solution. We can help them plan, solve problems, or develop hope for the future. And above all, we must not feel guilty for this situation that we are all going through, but we must focus on making it the least problematic for the smallest and youngest members of the family.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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