A Parent’s Guide to Post-Pandemic Depression

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives in major and minor ways. No one has been left unaffected by the changes the virus has caused to society, but children are often especially affected. A quarter of adolescents are experiencing clinically elevated symptoms of depression, while 20% of kids are experiencing an increase in the potential need for anxiety treatment. While many children are resilient, the long-term impacts of the pandemic on mental health remain to be seen. Parents can help, though, by recognizing the signs of depression and getting help for their kids.

How Has COVID-19 Affected Children?

Although more research is required—it will be years before the lasting impacts of COVID-19 are supported by extensive data and statistics—there are several factors that have had a detrimental effect on children and teens. The social isolation caused by closed schools, canceled sports, and limited contact with friends and extended family is a major factor.

Loss of peer interaction can cause feelings of loneliness, sadness, and hopelessness, which, when combined with changes to their routines and the loss of structure, can exacerbate the need for anxiety treatment and help with depression. Missing milestones like school dances, graduation, and other events only worsens these feelings.

Worry and stress about the virus itself can also bring mental health issues to the surface. Exposure to the news and ongoing coverage of cases, fatalities, and ever-changing restrictions can create fear in children, who may be reluctant to return to school or activities out of fear of getting sick.

How Can You Help Your Kids?

As the world slowly returns to a post-pandemic normal, it’s important to expect a range of emotions. Children who may have seemed fine for the last 20 months may suddenly feel sad, fearful, anxious, or a combination of emotions as they reengage with society.

Give your child space to express their emotions. Watch for signs of a problem, including increased withdrawal or sadness, changes to eating or sleeping habits, and severe mood swings, and make an appointment with a child psychiatrist or doctor for help. Depression or anxiety treatment may be beneficial to help them cope moving forward.

It’s important to ease your child back into their routine as well. Keep your family on a consistent schedule of bed and wakeup times, meals, and other activities. Encourage socialization, but try to avoid putting too much pressure on your kids to get back to normal. Validate their feelings, and let them know it’s okay to feel a bit unsettled, and they’ll have your support no matter how much time they need.