Stressful times for kids and youth
by Dr. Rey Pagtakhan
These are uncertain and unsettling times, particularly for children and youth. The wings of the pandemic have spanned over the geography of 185 countries, sickened nearly two million people, and claimed the lives of well over a hundred thousand, and counting. It has shuttered the national economy. It has profoundly disturbed every aspect of normal living – all within a short period of about four months.
Adults have distilled a measure of resilience from the wisdom of the ages. For one, I have lived long enough to experience a world war, a number of regional wars, natural disasters, and epidemics – all during my growing up and working years. Stories of pain and suffering I have heard. Calamities I have seen. Anxiety and fear I have felt.
Times were that I really worried about the future. We gathered then, we did not distance ourselves. We prayed for peace. We coped. There was none of the restrictions, though, like the directives that have been imposed these days – for good reasons, I should add. But I also add that COVID-19 is unlike any other prior experience.
Fears and feelings
Children and youth, however, depending on their specific age, developmental stage, temperament, educational level, and life experience, would naturally be anxious when their usual geographic landscapes outside the home are closed to them: schools; playgrounds, parks and beaches; restaurants and bars; movie theatres and concert halls; and places of religious worship. Their respective anxieties and apprehensions for themselves and for their families and friends – for all their loved ones – would be awakened. When they talk to their siblings; when they call their friends; when they watch television and the social media; and when they read and hear the news – they would likely have a load of feelings. Are they in danger of getting the virus?
Teenagers, in particular, are vulnerable. DoSomething.org, a youth-led movement for young people and social change, has recently done three surveys, spaced a week apart, receiving a total over 8,000 responses from teens and youth 13 to 25 years old. The survey was to ascertain how this age group is handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The results: a deep concern for the safety, health and well being of their loved ones, especially parents and grandparents; their school progress and future plans; getting the virus and getting very sick or even dying; being a carrier of the virus to others; employee and consumer safety and job security; stricter requirements and enforcement around social distancing; and support for healthcare workers. These concerns translate to feelings of frustration, nervousness, disconnection, and sadness. Clearly, young people across the country must be feeling the impact deeply.
Restrictions and consequence
Lockdown. Self-isolation. Quarantine. Stay-at-home. Shelter-in-place. Two-metre physical distancing. No handshakes. These have become a common part of our daily lexicon.
Parks, playgrounds and beaches closed. Vacations and trips cancelled. Schools, colleges and universities interrupted. Prom and graduation ceremonies, birthday celebrations and weddings postponed. No sports, movie theatres, nor concerts. Restaurants and bars closed. These most certainly add stress to daily living.
No visitors to seniors home. Healthcare workers getting infected and dying. ER’s and ICU’s overwhelmed. Not enough test kits. Conflicting and confusing messages from government officials. Places of worships closed. These touch the soul and humanity of anyone. Our children and youth surely must be wondering and asking the natural question, “Why the restrictions?”
Words of reassurance and confidence
I would like to share with our children and youth and their parents the following:
- Following public health directives contribute immensely to help break the human chain of transmission and, thereby, help control the pandemic;
- The disease is mild for most of the patients (80 per cent);
- Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers are well trained and dedicated to attend to those needing hospitalization;
- Elderly seniors greatly benefit from social distancing and from family members strictly adhering to washing their hands with soap and water and wearing a face covering; and
- Medical doctors and scientists, with the World Health Organization, have been working hard and already have clinical trials underway of potentially effective vaccines, drugs and antibody-rich plasma.
Caring for Kids and the Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) have resources “to help you navigate this stressful time with your children.” They are very instructive.
Should you need a print copy and you have no access to a computer and printer, e-mail me at email@example.com.
- How can we talk to kids about COVID-19? Be “realistically reassuring,” Dr. Robin Williams, Chair, Early Years Task Force
- Parenting during COVID-19: A new frontier, Dr. Kassia Johnson
- Talking to children about stressful public events, Canadian Paediatric Society’s Caring for Kids, Adolescent medicine team of CHU Ste-Justine, Montreal, Quebec
- How to help youth tackle the blues during COVID-19 and #physicaldistancing, Erin Romanchych, clinical psychologist; Dr. Daphne Korczak, Chair, Mental Health Task Force
- When your child has ADHD: Coping during a pandemic, Dr. Daniel Gorman, Hospital for Sick Children
- COVID-19: Information for parents of immunocompromised children and children with chronic medical conditions, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto
- Coronavirus and asthma, asthma.ca
The first on the list by Dr. Robin Williams addresses key points “to help build the resilience” in the child: 1. Be reassuring; 2. Bring children into the conversation; 3. Help them sort facts from fiction; 4. Help children have some control; 5. Be mindful of media; 6. Be creative and grateful. He concludes, “Aim to provide them with realistic reassurance.”
Hon. Dr. Rey D. Pagtakhan, P.C, O.M., LL.D., Sc.D., M.D., M.Sc. graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine and the University of Manitoba (UM) Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research and trained at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital-Washington University Medical Center. He is a retired lung specialist and professor of pediatrics and child health from the Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine. As Canada’s former Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development, he made a presentation on “The Global Threat of Infectious Diseases” at the G-8 Countries’ Science Ministers and Advisors Group Meeting held on June 13-15, 2003 in Berlin, Germany. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Rey D. Pagtakhan, P.C, O.M., LL.D., Sc.D., M.D., M.Sc. graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine and the University of Manitoba (UM) Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research and trained at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital-Washington University Medical Center. He is a retired lung specialist and professor of pediatrics and child health from the Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine. As Canada’s former Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development, he made a presentation on “The Global Threat of Infectious Diseases” at the G-8 Countries’ Science Ministers and Advisors Group Meeting held on June 13-15, 2003 in Berlin, Germany. email@example.com.
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