After schools shuttered in March 2020, students of all backgrounds struggled with isolation during the pandemic, a trend seen across the nation. But specialists say the worst trauma afflicted youths who relied on school as an escape from difficult homes, and those most affected by the health and economic crises, including low-income students, students with disabilities, and students of color.
Researchers estimate that nearly 104,900 US children lost a parent to COVID. Nearly one in three Black or Latino families nationwide faced three compounding hardships such as housing insecurity, hunger, and unemployment, twice the rate of white and Asian-American families.
Here’s what experts recommend families do to support your child’s mental health:
- Check in on how children are feeling about school.
- Seek help if they notice any significant changes in their children, such as extreme fear or worry, nightmares, dramatic mood changes, sudden aggression or disobedience, changes in academic performance, loss of interest in hobbies, or a sudden lack of interest in friendships.
- Model healthy behaviors and coping skills, such as exercising, getting enough sleep, taking breaks, eating well, and managing use of alcohol and other substances. Ensure kids also are following them.
- Reach out to their child’s school psychologist, social worker, or counselor if they have concerns.
- Call the state’s Mobile Crisis Intervention to respond to children and youth in mental-health and substance-abuse crises at 1-877-382-1609.
- Learn more about the state’s behavioral health services for youths at www.mass.gov/childrens-behavioral-health-initiative-cbhi, or call their local Family Resource Center, or dial 211.
Sources: Massachusetts School Psychologists Association, state of Massachusetts
Naomi Martin can be reached at email@example.com.