Children and Young People’s Social, Emotional, and Mental Health

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) can affect children and young people directly and indirectly. Beyond getting sick, many young people’s social, emotional, and mental well-being has been impacted by the pandemic. Trauma faced at this developmental stage can continue to affect them across their lifespan.

Some of the challenges children and young people face during the COVID-19 pandemic relate to:

Changes in their routines (e.g., having to physically distance from family, friends, worship community)
Breaks in continuity of learning (e.g., virtual learning environments, technology access and connectivity issues)
Breaks in continuity of health care (e.g., missed well-child and immunization visits, limited access to mental, speech, and occupational health services)
Missed significant life events (e.g., grief of missing celebrations, vacation plans, and/or milestone life events)
Lost security and safety (e.g., housing and food insecurity, increased exposure to violence and online harms, threat of physical illness and uncertainty for the future)

CDC developed this COVID-19 Parental Resource Kit: Ensuring Children and Young People’s Social, Emotional, and Mental Well-being to help support parents, caregivers, and other adults serving children and young people in recognizing children and young people’s social, emotional, and mental health challenges and helping to ensure their well-being.

Resources

Explore different types of resources available to help you support young people’s social, emotional, and mental well-being across the lifespan.

Door Hangers

These ready-to-print door hangers can serve as reminders for children, young people, and adults alike to remember some COVID-19 prevention and mitigation practices. Parents and children can also be inspired by these and make their own with paper and crayons or other art supplies.

Conversation Starters

Get immediate help in a crisis and find a health care provider or treatment for substance use disorder and mental health.

Children and young people can be particularly overwhelmed by stress related to a traumatic event, like the COVID-19 pandemic. They may show stress through increased anxiety, fear, sadness or worry. When children and young people are struggling to cope with stress, they may exhibit unhealthy eating or sleeping habits, changes in activity level, substance use or other risk behaviors, and difficulty with attention and concentration.

Parents, caregivers, and other trusted adults can serve as sources of social connectedness; they can provide stability, support, and open communication. They can also help children and young people express the many different feelings and thoughts on their mind.

Here are some quick ideas for how to get conversations started with children and young people about how they are feeling and what they are struggling with regarding COVID-19. You don’t have to use these exact words—you know best how to speak with your child, adolescent or youth. In addition, how we talk to children and young people varies depending on their age and developmental level.

COVID-19 is a new disease, which can be confusing. Do you have any questions about it? If I don’t know the answer, I can try to find it or maybe we could search for it together.
People can be angry, sad, or worried when something bad happens. Those feelings can make you feel confused or uncomfortable. Tell me what you have been feeling since the changes started.
What worries you most about COVID-19?
Have you been feeling nervous about going back to school because of COVID-19?
Wearing masks and staying at a distance from others is not something we were used to doing. How do you feel about that?
When our minds are stuck on bad things, it can be really hard to focus on other things. Have you ever felt this way? What kinds of things does your mind get stuck on?
Is there anything that you are looking forward to, for when we can connect in-person more safely and return to more normal activities—like a vacation, movie, graduation or playing on a sports team? Tell me about what that might look like!

Some of these conversation starters are used in Psychological First Aid (PFA)pdf iconexternal icon – an approach commonly used among disaster survivors to cope with trauma. PFA can be useful for parents to help children and young people cope by enabling and maintaining environments that promote safety, calmness, connectedness to others, self-efficacy (empowerment), and hopefulness. Remember: It’s okay not to have an answer, just being there to listen in a non-judgmental way can be helpful!

Below are some resources to help you learn more about PFA and other tools for parents and caregivers to help children and young people cope.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, Uniformed Services University

STEM and Other Activity Ideas

Let’s get creative! Here are a few ideas on how to have fun while learning how to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19. These resources may be useful for children and adolescents ages 6-17 years.

DIY mask: Wearing a mask is a very important step that we can take to stop the spread of COVID-19. Make it a family project to create masks. Be creative and stylish. Here’s a video on how to make your own mask.

DIY soap: Handwashing is an easy, inexpensive, and effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other germs and keep kids and adults healthy. You can help your kids make their own soap! This resource from PBS Kids for Parentsexternal icon tells you how.

Handwashing song: Handwashing can become a lifelong healthy habit if you start teaching it at an early age. Teach kids the five easy steps for handwashing—wet, lather, scrub, rinse and dry—and the key times to wash hands, such as after using the bathroom or before eating. Make it fun! Make up your own handwashing song, or pick a song your child likes, and sing it for 20 seconds to help teach the length of time to wash your hands.

Children Preparedness

CDC has different resources for families to help their children be ready for emergencies. These resources may be useful for children and adolescents ages 6-17 years.

Get Immediate Help in a Crisis

Children, young people, and adults may experience increased stress during this pandemic. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions. These resources may be useful for parents and other caregivers, as well as older children and young people.

Get immediate help in a crisis

Find a health care provider or treatment for substance use disorder and mental health

Other Information Resources

CDC and its federal partners have diverse web resources that can help parents and other caregivers, teachers, and other adults support children and young people’s social, emotional, mental, and physical well-being:



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