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This May Be Why Kids Are Acting Out

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If you notice these signs, it may mean a child or teen is struggling with mental health issues.

The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of many Americans. But the impact on kids and teens has been especially tough. Even before the pandemic, this age group was facing more mental health challenges than ever before. Then the pandemic hit and things really became difficult for many children.

Schools were closed and activities were cancelled at first. Children had to adapt to remote learning, which many found difficult to do. Some were isolated at home in less-than-ideal living situations. Parents lost jobs and finances got tight. There was stress over wearing masks. Others were stressed about taking those masks off. Then there’s the ultimate loss—it is estimated that as many as 200,000 children lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19.

Even as we emerge on the other side of the pandemic, some of the issues faced during the last 2 ½ years will have long-lasting effects on the younger generation. Many parents cite the pandemic as the worst thing to ever happen to their children. Some surveys show that rates of anxiety and depression are up in children and teens of all ages. Access to mental health counseling for this population has been difficult to come by and demand is high.

It may be too early to know exactly what the effect of the pandemic has been on the mental health of kids and teens. But it appears that those who may be struggling the most are racial and ethnic minorities and kids living in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods. Some in this group may have experienced more hardship due to the pandemic. They also are less likely to have access to mental health services.

Whether you are a parent, caregiver, teacher, bus driver or any adult who has contact with kids, keep in mind that if a child or teen is acting out, there may be something deeper going on. Signs of mental health difficulties vary by age but may include:

  • Crying
  • Persistent sadness
  • Extreme irritability
  • Outbursts or tantrums
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Separation anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble with schoolwork
  • Avoiding or missing school
  • Withdrawing from people or activities
  • Drastic changes in mood or behavior
  • Frequent headaches or stomachaches
  • Hurting oneself
  • Talking about death or suicide

If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, try to have an open conversation with them if possible. Listen to their concerns, let them know you’re there for them and explain that it’s normal to need help. Talking to your pediatrician is usually a good place to start in getting recommendations for mental health assistance. Schools may also have resources available to help kids navigate through issues like stress and anxiety. If you’re concerned about suicide, seek help immediately by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if there is imminent danger of a child or teen hurting themselves or others.

For more LiveSmart articles visit Education & Wellness | McKenzie Health System

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Date Last Reviewed: May 16, 2022

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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