1. Changes in Appetite: Both overeating or undereating can be signs children are using food as a coping mechanism for overwhelming emotions. Monitor changes in weight and be mindful not to shame or judge a child for weight changes. Instead, take notice of how well clothes are fitting and the amount of food consumed.
  2. Changes in Sleep Patterns or Behaviors: Do you notice your child needing more sleep or less sleep? Are they having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep? Is your child afraid to go to bed? Are they having scary or upsetting dreams?
  3. Emotions and Moods Are Stressful and Intensified: During the pandemic, children are experiencing emotions (sadness, worry, fear, irritability, anger, embarrassment, shame, disgust, etc.) more intensely and frequently. Children and teens who are emotionally distressed often appear as behaviorally defiant, not adhering to rules and expectations of reasonable tasks. Be mindful not to label all of these behaviors as defiance, as children and teens express what they’re feeling through behaviors.
  4. Loss of Interest in Activities Once Enjoyed: When children are distressed, they show us by withdrawing from participating or engaging in activities they once enjoyed. That can mean a loss of interest in playing with favorite toys, crafting/drawing/painting, sports, and choosing to do passive activities during unstructured time such as playing video games or watching movies, etc.
  5. Social Withdrawal: Circumstances related to the pandemic including social distancing, isolation and a change in routine are causing kids and teens to experience loneliness. However, when a child has lost interest in interacting with peers, even in ways that are possible given the circumstances, it’s a sign something more may be going on.
  6. Negative Self-Talk: Pay attention to the ways your child speaks to themselves when they’re frustrated, upset or faced with disappointment. Self-talk verbally expressed out loud or to oneself with themes of low self-esteem or self-worth such as, “I’m not good at anything,” or, “I’m so stupid, I hate myself,” are some red flags that emotional distress is present.
  7. Expressed Hopelessness: Pay attention to thoughts and beliefs your child has about the future. Does your child have a sense of hopelessness about the future? Does your child make statements about not knowing the point to life, or not wanting to live, and make statements of wanting to harm themselves, with gestures and a plan to do so? These are concerns that must be addressed immediately.
  8. Worry and Anxiety in New Situations: The pandemic has created protocols to be mindful of keeping ourselves and others safe. For some kids and teens, the sense of danger goes beyond what is expected. This is often expressed by feeling anxious in public, not wanting to go out or leave the house or expressing the danger in the world and social spaces disproportionate to actual risks.