WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Months of pandemic restrictions have taken a toll on all of us but the impact of the coronavirus crisis has a much different impact on young children and teenagers.
Living through a pandemic causes psychological and emotional stressors in kids that require healthy managing. Experts say that before parents can help kids cope, they must first recognize something is wrong.
“The science tells us that they may have more problems with attention and concentration and they may have a little bit more meltdowns,” Dr. Robin Gurwitch, a psychologist and professor at Duke University Medical Center told Eyewitness News.
Dr. Gurwitch’s work focuses on the impact of trauma and disasters on children and building their resilience. She says the first step parents need to take is talk with their young children or teenagers and ask them what they know about the pandemic and what are their concerns.
“By starting that conversation, by listening to what they say, correcting misinformation, children will have fewer mental health stressors than if we try to just protect them from what’s happening,” Gurwitch said.
Dr. Gurwitch cautions that getting a productive answer from teenagers may take a little digging.
“You may get a shoulder shrug or an ‘everything is fine’. So follow that up with a different question. Tell me what your friends are saying about coronavirus. Teens are much more likely to share with you how their friends are doing and what they think so you can start a conversation there,” she explained.
As troubling and trying as the pandemic has been, Dr. Gurwitch says it’s an opportunity to teach young people coping strategies that will serve them well now and later in life.
“Whether it’s learning how to relax their bodies when they are feeling really anxious, whether it’s seeing some strengths in themselves that they didn’t realize they had,” she said.
Dr. Gurwitch says if you see your teen withdraw from things they used to enjoy, withdraw from social connections, and spend more time isolated, you should seek professional help. Click here to access important resources for parents to help kids cope during the pandemic.