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Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Advice for parents noticing behavior changes in children during the COVID-19 pandemic

Posted May 8, 2020 4:02 p.m. EDT
Updated May 8, 2020 5:55 p.m. EDT

Almost every child who is referred to therapeutic foster care has endured trauma of some sort. As a result, therapeutic foster parents undergo specialized training to understand and appropriately respond to challenging behaviors that may present as a result of this trauma. (VictoriaDunn/Big Stock Photo)

Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is tough on all of us, but it can be especially tough on young people like children and teens.

Our children have likely never experienced this level of isolation and are unlikely to be equipped with the proper emotional and social tools for managing their anxiety and complex emotions.

Parents may begin noticing some changes in how our children are acting at home.

"We are seeing a lot more temper tantrums," said Ashley Witherspoon, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist in Durham.

Witherspoon is also a parent, who knows just how tough this can be on children and teens who don’t have all of the tools to cope.

She said she is seeing more cases of acting out. Some teens are returning to using nightlights or keeping their doors open at night. Teens and children may also be sleeping more or sleeping a lot less than normal.

Each child will have their own personality and response, said Witherspoon.

Parents may notice their kids are not quite themselves. They may be isolating more than usual. They might be on their phone a little bit more, or engaging in behaviors parents haven't seen in a while.

She said if parents notice these behaviors beginning to last for longer periods of time, they should step in.

She recommended that parents share their own feelings and fears with their kids to let them know they are not alone.

"I think a lot of children want to hear what mom has in her vault of feelings. They want to hear what dad has to say. They want to hear about grandma and grandpa as well," Witherspoon said.

While having these conversations, she said it’s also important to listen to what your children are saying.

"Really, the first step is acknowledging the feelings of our children," she said.

Witherspoon has compiled some tips for helping guide your children and teens through this complicated and stressful time.

She said it’s important to be proactive during this time. Parents may want to consider having their children speak to a therapist if they appear to be struggling.