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Dad Daze: Providing support for children suffering mentally due to pandemic fallout

UPDATED: Sun., May 8, 2022

Heather Haworth holds the hand of her 12-year-old son Jeremy as he receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from medical assistant Gloria Urgell at the Providence, Edwards Lifesciences vaccination site in Santa Ana, Calif., on May 13.  (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)
Heather Haworth holds the hand of her 12-year-old son Jeremy as he receives the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from medical assistant Gloria Urgell at the Providence, Edwards Lifesciences vaccination site in Santa Ana, Calif., on May 13. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

When I called my daughter Jillian a few Sunday afternoons ago, she said I woke her from a nap. I just thought it was because of a late night for my 23-year-old, but it was more than that.

“Guess who has COVID?” Jillian said while calling the following day. “Me. I feel horrible.”

It was a reminder that the pandemic isn’t over, and it made me wonder when I should receive my next booster. I was planning to get a shot in November, but that might be ill-advised.

My children are asking about boosters. Eddie, 20, Milo, 16, and Jane, 12, have been relatively even keel during the pandemic. However, that’s not so for everyone.

A college friend noted that her teenage son has COVID-19 and has been depressed since the pandemic commenced more than two years ago. Her child is not in the minority since many kids are struggling through this period.

But help is on the way during Mental Health Awareness Month. The Family Institute at Northwestern University is focusing on the mental health needs of children. Their experts are available to put the ongoing youth mental health crisis into perspective.

“Over the last two years, COVID-19 has proven to have a dynamic influence on mental wellness,” Dr. Ariel Horvitz said. “This is especially true for children and adolescents who are navigating developmental and educational milestones during a time of fluctuation and uncertainty. Unfortunately, this has led to an increase in mental health concerts ranging from anxiety, depression, academic difficulties, such as grief and loss.”

Children and adolescents have faced drastic levels of adversity, uncertainty and grief since the pandemic began. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released recommendations for anxiety screening beginning at age 8. COVID-19, along with the ongoing struggle for racial injustice, has disproportionately impacted children from communities of color.

Recent data models estimate that 6.7 million children worldwide have lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19. These statistics and others showing a significant increase in emergency room visits for mental health among children prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics to declare a national state of emergency in child and adolescent mental health.

Hats off to the Family Institute for supporting all components of the family system, children and teens included, as they navigate the impact of a global pandemic. The institute is offering additional resources to support children who may be struggling with their mental health as a result of the pandemic.

The Family Institute is hosting a live webinar for parents, counselors, teachers and other caregivers about the short- and long-term effects the past years have had on children of all ages. The webinar is slated for May 25 at 10 a.m. PT. For more information, go to family-institute.org.

If your children have any issues, it’s not a bad idea to take part in the webinar. It’s a difficult time to find therapists, who are working overtime due to the demand courtesy of the pandemic. Perhaps there will be something you can glean from the Family Institute that can help your child.

We’re navigating through uncharted territory. According to my friend, whose child is troubled, the boy wonders when the pandemic will end, will it ever abate and will we have to learn to live with this as our new normal.

There are so many questions but fewer answers during this time. But it’s so important to deal with our children’s mental health needs since kids missed out on honing their social skills, learning in school and enjoying team sports for a long period of time. Some resilient children bounced back while others need more time and support.

Parents have to deal with so much, and now there is the fallout of the pandemic. We just have to do our best and search for resources such as what the Family Institute provides.

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