By Karen Lerfald, Director of Special Services
The summer of 2020 will be like no other summer our children have experienced. Many summer camps have been canceled or modified, community education and recreational activities do not look the same, and planned outings or vacations may not be happening. As a parent, I worry how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted my two daughters’ learning, relationships with their peers, and overall mental health. Families and schools did their best to continue with educational opportunities for children, but COVID-19 swept away the structure that schools provided. Children and parents experienced a huge change to their normal routine.
As we transition into the summer months, some children may continue to experience anxiety and depression from missing out on school activities, missing friends, and dealing with summer activities being canceled. As a parent, it is important to look for warning signs that your child may be experiencing anxiety or depression in response to COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov), you might see following if your child is experiencing anxiety or depression:
- 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
- Difficulty with attention and concentration
- Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
- Unexplained headaches or body pain
- Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
While it is common for children and teens to experience a mild headache or to act out occasionally, as parents, we must pay attention to how often, how long, and the intensity of these symptoms and behaviors.
If you are noticing any of these changes in your child or teen, the CDC has offered a variety of ways to provide support. They recommend talking about the pandemic, answering questions, and sharing facts in a way your child can understand. It is also important to reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Acknowledge when they are upset and take the opportunity to share with them how you manage stress as an adult. For more information on managing your own and your child’s mental health during COVID-19, visit the MN Department of Health website.
Another way to reduce anxiety is by maintaining a routine. Work with your child or teen to create a daily schedule for the summer. It is important to have your child help create the schedule, as they will feel empowered and will be more likely to follow the schedule if they help create it. The structure and predictability of a routine can bring them a sense of security.
Providing your child and teen with a variety of activities and learning experiences to keep them engaged are some ways to manage anxiety and depression. The Hutchinson Library has a number of online programs to keep your child or teen reading throughout the summer. Visit the Hutchinson Library website and look under Kids and Teen Services. Families can also take virtual field trips to museums locally and around the world. Search the internet for virtual tours being offered by museums.
Enjoy the unusual summer of 2020 by staying safe, providing opportunities for engagement, enjoying the outdoors, and having fun with family and friends!