Here are some warning signs for parents when it comes to children's mental health during pandemic

Doctors offer tips for parents
Posted at 8:59 AM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-07 09:00:30-05

JUPITER, Fla. — Months into dealing with a new way of living in a pandemic, some children are feeling the effects emotionally. Experts suggest that, as parents and guardians, there are important things to look out for in their children.

Tammy Rawn is a mother of two children -- a middle schooler and a high schooler. She said one is participating in distance learning, the other at brick-and-mortar. Rawn said managing everyone's version of stress this year is a big undertaking.

"Totally different fear and anxiety," she said. "For my daughter, it is cleanliness and the high school being up to her standards, and for my son, my anxiety is his grades."

Jennifer Tomko, a licensed clinical psychotherapist, said there are warning signs of which to be aware. For younger children, she suggested, it's behavior.

"You may find their play, when you are watching them play, looks a little different," she said. "They may not be as gentle with their toys, for instance. For the older kids, it's spending too much time alone their grades might change. They might feel irritable. You might even see some, like, dark stuff in the things they're writing."

Tomko's son, Grant, said he is managing his boredom, so it doesn't take a toll on his mental health.

"I know a lot of people are getting bored, and it's taking a toll on them, myself included, and that's why I have been trying to exercise more, do more creative things," he said.

Dr. Elsy Oms, from St. Mary's Medical Center Institute of Mental Health, said in-person learning can present difference challenges from remote learning.

"At home, you have to look more at the feelings of isolation," she said.

Oms said going to school these days can come with anxiety.

"Teach them safety measures to reduce anxiety and teach them how it spreads so that the fear isn't unrealistic," she said.

She also pointed to bullying in the form of so-called COVID-19 shaming and said it's important for parents and educators to stay on top of interactions.

"Children are being targeted a lot now because of the virus," she said. "Either because they feel they have had it or a family member, and they can be called out."

Tomko said there is a point in which parents have to take it to the next level with their children.

"If you are feeling hopeless-helpless thoughts, that's your cue that you have to get help," she said. "That it's not being managed based on the things you have tried, and you really are in danger."