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How are kids handling social isolation? Some youngsters aren’t faring so well. In Stockton, California, 15-year-old Jo’Vianni Smith took her life earlier this month, a sign the COVID-19 pandemic is taking its toll on students’ mental health.

Danielle Hunt said her daughter showed no signs of depression but may have had difficulty dealing with California’s stay-at-home order that began weeks before other states began issuing stay-at-home orders.

Hunt now stresses parents to communicate candidly with their children as the coronavirus alters business as usual for families.

“Sometimes, we may need to stop and worry about the kids that we don’t think we need to worry about,” said Hunt. “We can’t think that our kids are okay just because.”

Hunt described her daughter as an outgoing kid who enjoyed music and playing sports. Jo’Vianni was on her high school’s softball team.

“I felt that I was doing all that I could as a parent to leave the communication open,” Hunt explained, adding that her daughter was active on social media but didn’t see signs there nor a message that would lead her to believe her daughter was suffering.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that children and teens react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children if they are better prepared.

The CDC issued behavior changes to look for in children and young adults:

  • 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
  • Poor school performance or avoiding school
  • Difficulty with attention and concentration
  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

Ways to support your child

  • Talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.
  • Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
  • Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
  • Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
  • Be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.

For information on how to help your kids protect their mental health during coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown, click here.

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