I had the pleasure of talking about the impact of at-home learning during the pandemic on Real America’s Voice with Tudor Dixon and Steve Gruber. You can click here to watch the interview! You can find the transcription of the interview below.
Online learning is not ideal for anybody, but some people just don’t learn online at all. What’s going on with our children and how detrimental is this?
So unfortunately, our kids have too much free time on their hands and not enough social interaction which is really impacting their mental health. We as mental health professionals on the front lines are seeing increases as much as 84% in depression in kids who have never experienced depressive symptoms before. And a 94% increase in anxiety. It is hard for kids to learn in that kind of system (online school) without the social support and interaction. Our kids just aren’t getting enough of what they need socially and emotionally through interactions with adults as much as they need to be. The greatest impact of these statistics is for ages 18-24.
If you’re a parent right not and you have a child you seem to not be able to reach, what’s a bit of advice you can give those parents that have kids whose behavior is a little bit different, but they don’t know how to talk to them right now?
I think you start by listening well, and assuring your kids know that you are listening without judgment. Let your kids know that whatever they are struggling with, you are not going to be disappointed in them for it, and that y’all can find a solution together. I think important questions to be asking our kids are “How well are you sleeping?” and “Are able to fall asleep and sleep through the night?” A lot of kids have anxiety right before bed. Be watching their eating patterns, but even more questions like “What’s something you’re worrying about?” or “When’s the last time you cried?”
You’ve got parents that are experiencing stress and anxiety themselves because of work pressures or their jobs have been lost and they have kids to teach and all of this other pressure. So, it compounds itself, I think, these mental health questions because the parents because the parents who are responsible for the kids are having challenges and struggles themselves, don’t you think?
I think the main message I’m sending to parents right now is “Put your own mask on first.” That means you may need to engage a mental professional and get a mental health checkup to see how you’re doing. You might be struggling, not just with your job, but working from home. We are seeing more martial struggles and conflicts, and divorce rates are going up. Take care of yourself. Model for your children good mental health practices like physical exercise, taking care of your mindset, and spiritual practices. Talk to your children about these things, and about how you are working through your own struggles through positive self-talk and encouraging yourself. The WHO has announced increases in depression and behavior and mental health disorders by 75%. That is going to impact the children in their homes.
We’ve seen really young children committing suicide, but there’s also self-harm that we are not so aware of and parents aren’t understanding what to about that. Explain what that looks like. What is self-harm?
So non-suicidal self-injury is different from self-harm. It’s usually a manifestation of anxiety that’s turned into depression. A child may make marks on their arm or wrists, and unfortunately some of their peers are teaching them that this is a good way to cope with your emotions. When we create physical harm on our body, it creates a reaction that shuts down the intensity of the negative emotions. But what we must help kids realize, is that there are better ways to cope than this. Parents need to be aware and be watching for this. If a child does it once, its kind of like substance abuse and it could be experimental, but when you have a child who is consistently doing this, what they are trying to control can quickly gain control over them. That is when it is so important to seek professional help. I can intervene so much faster with a treatment plan on a child who has just started, rather than a child who has begun to hide it and are making deep marks to manage their emotional pain.
It’s just so frightening– everything we have to deal with as parents. I can only imagine what these children are going through, the isolation the lack of socialization you talked about and then the coping mechanisms…then of course there’s the use of drugs and alcohol and other substance abuse issues that, again, become ver pronounced in that 18-24 year old age bracket you talked about. That’s also something that’s not going to be healed overnight. It’s going to be a long term generational problem, potentially– the mental health, the drug abuse, the substance abuse and, I’ll say frankly, unhealthy coping mechanisms.
That is why I’m here and I think this is why me and other mental health professionals are reaching out to say we have a better way to cope. We have practices like meditation, mindfulness, and learning how to breathe well.