Behavioral Health COVID-19 resources for children, youth and families

 

 

As Colorado and the nation face a new wave of COVID-19, it remains important to remember that children and youth are disproportionately impacted. Increasingly, schools are returning to on-line learning, social events are being canceled, entry-level jobs might become rare again, and caregiver stress is most likely on the rise as we face our own stress. As the stress reactions increase for children and youth, caregivers can recognize these reactions and respond in ways that are helpful and will increase the child or youth’s sense of safety, stability, and attachment. The below table, created by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, breaks down children and youth by age, possible reactions that you as a caregiver might see, and specific ways that you can help. During difficult times, no one is perfect, and self-care and a full toolkit can go a long way to make the holidays a little easier and fun.

AGE GROUP REACTIONS HOW TO HELP

PRESCHOOL
(ages 0-5)

  • Fear of being alone, bad dreams 
  • Speech difficulties 
  • Loss of bladder/bowel control, constipation, bed-wetting 
  • Change in appetite 
  • Increased temper tantrums, whining, or clinging behaviors
  • Patience and tolerance 
  • Provide reassurance (verbal and physical) 
  • Encourage expression through play, reenactment, story-telling 
  • Allow short-term changes in sleep arrangements 
  • Plan calming, comforting activities before bedtime
  • Maintain regular family routines 
  • Avoid media exposure
SCHOOL-AGE (ages 6-12)
  • Irritability, whining, aggressive behavior 
  • Clinging, nightmares 
  • Sleep/appetite disturbance 
  • Physical symptoms (headaches, stomachaches withdrawal from peers, loss of interest) 
  • Competition for parents’ attention 
  • Forgetfulness about chores and new information learned at school
  • Patience, tolerance, and reassurance 
  • Play sessions and staying in touch with friends through telephone and Internet 
  • Regular exercise and stretching
  • Engage in educational activities (workbooks, educational games) 
  • Participate in structured household chores
  • Set gentle but firm limits 
  • Discuss the current outbreak and encourage questions. Include what is being done in the family and community 
  • Encourage expression through play and conversation 
  • Help family create ideas for enhancing health promotion behaviors and maintaining family routines 
  • Limit media exposure, talking about what they have seen/heard including at school 
  • Address any stigma or discrimination occurring and clarify misinformation
ADOLESCENT (ages 13-18)
  • Physical symptoms (headaches, rashes, etc.)
  • Sleep/appetite disturbance 
  • Agitation or decrease in energy, apathy
  • Ignoring health promotion behaviors (e.g., exercise, positive healthy behaviors)
  • Isolating from peers and loved one’s 
  • Concerns about stigma and injustices 
  • Avoiding/cutting school
  • Patience, tolerance, and reassurance 
  • Encourage continuation of routines 
  • Encourage discussion of outbreak experience with peers, family (but do not force) 
  • Stay in touch with friends through telephone, Internet, video games 
  • Participate in family routines, including chores, supporting younger siblings, and planning strategies to enhance health promotion behaviors 
  • Limit media exposure, talking about what they have seen/heard including at school 
  • Discuss and address stigma, prejudice and potential injustices occurring during the outbreak

Self-care and coping

Here are some first steps when trying to help a child or youth cope with COVID-19:

  • Modify your daily activities to meet the current reality of the situation and focus on what you can accomplish. 
  • Shift expectations and priorities to focus more on what gives you meaning, purpose, or fulfillment. 
  • Give yourself small breaks from the stress of the situation. 
  • Attempt to control self-defeating statements and replace them with more helpful thoughts. 

Remember, you are a role model for your children. How you handle this stressful situation can affect how your children manage their worries. If your family has experienced a serious illness or the death of a loved one, find ways to support each other. These may be done as a family or individually and include: 

  • Reaching out to your friends and family, talking to them about the death of your loved one
  • Using the telephone, email, or social media to communicate
  • Finding ways to honor the death of your loved one
  • Seeking religious/spiritual help or professional counseling for support. 

Helpful resources