COVID-19 (coronavirus) Featured Mental health Youth mental health

Supporting children and youth through the pandemic

mom caring for sad child at home
Written by Jennifer Palisoc

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many areas of life including work, school, and play for people around the world, including children and youth.

Dr. Rachel Mitchell, child and adolescent psychiatrist, shares insight on how young people and families are coping.

“It’s important to note that not all of the data is available yet, but in general, and in otherwise healthy children, there appear to be increased rates of anxiety and depression, especially among school-aged children,” says Dr. Mitchell. “The kids affected the most have been from low income, marginalized and racialized groups.  Many kids with pre-existing mental health or neurodevelopmental conditions are also having a hard time for example, those with autism spectrum disorder or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).”

During the challenges of the pandemic, Dr. Mitchell notes there are some positive skills being learned along the way.

“We must also remember that some children and families are also doing pretty well through all of this,” she says “The increased family time has had such a positive impact for many kids and families overall.  Many have established new routines that will continue even when life goes back to ‘normal’, while others have been able to develop new coping strategies to get through.”

Dr. Mitchell encourages parents to take care of their own mental health, which will help them better support their kids in difficult times.

“Parents can remember to check in with how they’re feeling. Self-care activities such as physical exercise, getting outside, or talking with other parents also going through it, are just some of the ways parents can help support their own mental health.  Sometimes even just taking the pressure off themselves, and managing their own expectations, is just enough to get into the headspace needed to help support their kids,” Dr. Mitchell explains.

» Read: How to care for yourself if you’re feeling burnt out by COVID-19

“Every child will have different needs, but in general, parents can support their children by listening to what they have to say and validating how they’re feeling – don’t dismiss it,” says Dr. Mitchell. “Also, if your gut is telling you it’s time to seek help, then please reach out to a health care provider for that support. There is no such thing as the wrong time to get help if you think you need it.”

» Listen to Dr. Mitchell discuss youth mental health on CBC Radio’s Ontario Today and CBC News Network

If you need help in an emergency, please call 911 or visit your local emergency department.

If you’re feeling like you’re in crisis or need somebody to talk to, please know that help is also available through community resources:

About the author

Jennifer Palisoc

Jennifer Palisoc is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

Have a question about this post? Get in touch.