What If My Child Is Becoming Withdrawn or Anxious Due to Social Isolation?

As seen in the December 2020 Issue of Advancing Care.

According to Abraham Bartell, MD, Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at WMCHealth, social isolation is a loss. “It is the loss of ‘normal,’ and with loss comes varied emotions that are fluid and may change over time,” he says. “Any loss must be grieved, which can manifest in sadness, anger and frustration.” Here are Dr. Bartell’s tips for coping:

Know what to look for. There are a range of reactions and responses to the stress of COVID-19 and specifically the stress of social isolation. You may see irritability and low frustration tolerance, such as crying or crankiness in younger children or anger and frustration in teens and young adults. School performance, sleep and eating patterns may change, or be “off.” Children may have physical complaints or experience difficulty with focus, concentration, motivation or mood.

Listen. Validate your children and their complaints, concerns and fears. Talk to them and share your own fears, stress, anxiety and concerns. Be a role model, both in terms of acknowledging your stress, difficulties and feelings, as well as what you do to help alleviate them.

Maintain Healthy Habits. Sleep as best as you can, eat well and exercise. Keep some kind of schedule; the structure will likely help everyone. Go on an “Information diet.” Control exposure to information on the news, TV and social media, as well as conversations they may overhear. Finally, limiting screen time can be helpful for both parents and children.


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