By Mekialaya White

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on many people’s mental health, and doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado say children aren’t exempt from that.

“We are definitely seeing a dramatic increase in the level of stress in children and that’s manifesting in a variety of different ways,” said Child Clinical Psychologist Dr. Jenna Glover.

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Glover told CBS4’s Mekialaya White the hospital is seeing double to triple the rates of anxiety in patients since the pandemic began.

“We’re really seeing disruptions in kids’ lives across the age map. 4, 5, 6 years old,” said Glover. “A lot of times, this is manifesting in clinging behavior toward their parents, where they’re regressing and maybe acting a little bit younger than their age.”

Older kids, including teenagers, are feeling the effects, too.

“Children are starting to present issues with disordered eating, which is often surrounded by a lack of control and desire to cope. We’re also seeing an increase in trauma symptoms. It’s very common after a widespread crisis for people to experience trauma symptoms. And more kids are having suicidal ideations,” Glover said.

She encourages parents to be on the lookout for:
– Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
– Sudden changes in mood
– Irritability or anger

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Seeing symptoms consistently for one or two weeks is indicative of a greater mental health problem that may need support.

She also says parents should have an open dialogue with their children if they start to notice something is off.

“Kids are great at expressing emotions. They just need the invitation to be asked, how are you feeling? Because they’re usually not going to do that spontaneously on their own. Other kids might not be as forthcoming or even have the language to express how they feel. Parents can model by saying, this is how I’ve been feeling and give their kids a model for what that looks like.”

Another tip from Glover: Get outside.

“Even 30 minutes a day. Kids who spend time outdoors have better mental health as adults than those who don’t,” she added.

Additional resources for parents from Children’s Hospital Colorado:

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Checking in on teens
Adjusting to the new normal

Mekialaya White