Survey finds two-thirds of parents worried about pandemic’s long-term effects on children’s mental health

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As families are forced to alter holiday plans because of the coronavirus pandemic, a new national survey found two-thirds of parents are worried about their children’s mental health and their ability to recover the longer this continues.

Psychologist Dr. Parker Huston with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which conducted the survey, said we are all going through a shared, worldwide, prolonged traumatic experience.

“Research certainly shows that the longer a disruption goes on, the more instability is experienced,” he said, “the more likely there is to be a negative impact on mental health and mental well-being.”

The consistency kids need has been replaced this year with uncertainty.

“We’re coming up to some of those really tried-and-true family traditions and things that we look forward to for 12 months until they arrive, and now we’re having to tell our kids yet again it’s going to be different this year. Those things that you’re looking forward to, we can’t do them or we’re going to have to modify them.”

Huston suggests asking kids what they feel they’re missing out on and then try to recreate or modify those traditions.

”We have to give kids credit where credit is due,” he added. “They deal with a lot in their young lives and many of them bounce back very well.”

There could actually be some long-term benefits that come from living through this time.

“One of the terms I like to use is something called ‘falling up,’ which is that idea of learning from challenges,” he said. “Through overcoming difficulty, we actually become stronger or we’re benefited by that resiliency and by understanding our own resiliency.”

The survey also found more than half of the 650 parents surveyed are running out of ideas for ways to keep their kids occupied.

“Many of the ideas they had before related to playing outside, and being outside and as winter closes in, as there is more darkness, they don’t have as many ideas. There isn’t as much flexibility inside the house, and so parents are really running out of ways that they feel they can entertain their kids and keep them engaged in things as the winter months set in.”