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Most of the country is in lockdown at the moment, and while we know that these restrictions will save lives - it's undeniably challenging for everyone, with a particular impact on our children.
Two really important papers have just been published and I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about it - both will be linked for you to read in your own time.
A study from the University of Calgary last week pooled together 29 different papers from across the world, looking at a combined 81,000 youths and found that rates of anxiety and depression have DOUBLED in children and adolescent compared to before the pandemic.
There's no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the lives of children and adolescents. In addition to the obvious stressors facing families - like illness in loved ones, bereavement, unemployment and financial strain, children imbibe all of these - in addition to the sudden loss of structure, routine, social interaction and sense of control.
Even when not in strict lockdown, social distancing guidelines have limited our children's social contact with friends, cousins, grandparents, and teachers, worsening isolation and feelings of loneliness.
When children are faced with stress, we know schools do a wonderful job in providing resources to counter this —including supportive social interactions, physical exercise, consistent meal times, and a structured routine— but these are lost with school closures and online learning.
In this very room where I practice, I've seen a 30% increase in the number of referrals for mental health problems, self-harm, poor sleep, bedwetting, tics, the list - sadly - goes on.
But it's not all doom and gloom.
There are a number of simple, practical steps that families can take to promote resilience against mental health problems in children. A study was released just yesterday out of Harvard University and the findings are straightforward:
- have a structured daily routine,
- limit non-educational screen use,
- spend more time in nature,
- get the recommended amount of sleep
- finally - the strongest association for happier children -- limit screen time use and news media consumption: don't talk excessively about the pandemic, the lockdowns, the numbers, the outbreaks, the variants --- just create a happy bubble in your home, where your children can escape the pressure and stress.
and who knows -- it might just improve the mental health of us parents too.
Stay safe, stay strong - for your children.
And smile as much as you can.
Links to studies:
- University of Calgary study here
- Harvard University study here
Shop the Dr Golly Sleep Programs here.