Protecting Our Children’s Mental HealthFeb 27, 2021 04:55PM ● By Shae Marcus
by Dariel Figueroa
As we keep slogging through the sociopolitical sludge the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought, we’re still very much in the infancy of discovering what exactly the toll has been on us as a species. We know that the virus not only infects and has the potential to kill its human host, but it also leaves a trail of damage inside the brain and other organs.
So, too, are we just beginning to see and understand the damage the virus is wreaking upon the psychological and emotional framework of our communities. While children have not suffered the brunt of the mortal cost of COVID-19, they have—in fact—been dealt a tremendous blow to their fragile and budding psyches.
Recent data shows that children comprise up to 0.21 percent of all COVID-19 deaths, and the American Academy of Pediatrics states that as of January 28, “Nearly 2.82 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic.”
Although adults, especially those with underlying conditions like respiratory illness and obesity, are much more susceptible to a fatal case of coronavirus, our nation’s youth are experiencing a higher level of mental and emotional distress and damage.
In a study published last October, one in seven parents reported increasingly negative mental health issues for their children since coronavirus began to spread in March 2020. Another study found that 14 percent of parents reported worsening behavioral health for their children. It's not difficult to correlate exactly why these psychological changes are occurring in our children.
Moderate or severe food insecurity increased from 6 to 8 percent within months of the virus’ spread in the U.S. last year. Employer-sponsored insurance coverage of children decreased from 63 to 60 percent, and 24 percent of parents reported a loss of child care. There’s also highly strong evidence showing that along with a decline in the mental health of children, so, too, are we seeing a decline in mental health in parental units.
It should be noted, though, that in several of these studies, researchers attest that data is still fresh and not entirely conclusive towards the entire U.S. population. It will take more time to generate better studies and evidence on the long-term effects of COVID-19 on children. Nevertheless, there are actions that parents can begin to enact right now within their homes to ensure familial mental health remains a priority.
Isolation and quarantine have made it difficult for kids to eat healthy foods, exercise on a regular basis and adhere to reasonable bedtimes. Parents should offer their children plenty of fruits and vegetables, and help curb constant eating by holding to a stringent schedule for meals and snacks. For snack time, pantries should be stocked with organic treats, clear of processed sugars and carbs.
Limiting screen time after virtual learning for the day should also be a priority as is some kind of daily exercise like walking or taking part in sports. Parents should maintain similar healthy habits to serve as an example for their children to follow.
Also, for parents that find it challenging to deal with their children during this period, a pediatrician can provide counseling for mental health issues, screening for possible eating disorders, help in managing stress, and even personalized plans for managing obesity.
Further, here are some area activities that can help stimulate and entertain
D Diggerland might be a little bit of stretch for 1-year-olds, but ages 2 and up will enjoy the variety of activities this park offers.
D Adventure Aquarium is back open to the public, albeit with new COVID-19 guidelines and required reservations.
D Launch Trampoline Park—which offers dodgeball, laser tag, virtual reality, rock climbing and more—reopens to the public on February 26.
D Peekaboo Playground offers a variety of fun experiences. Options for parents include drop-offs and monthly memberships.
D Jellybean Jungle is offering 75-minute private experiences for $60 and is a great alternative to public playgrounds during the pandemic.
D Speed Raceway has an exhilarating, indoor, F-1-inspired go-kart track along with arcade games and ax throwing.
D Scotland Run Park is hosting an Earth Day event on April 6, celebrating nature and environmental sustainability with naturalist and Rowan University professor, Dr. Dan Duran, leading a presentation on regenerating the natural world.