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Mental health experts say anxiety in kids could be on the rise as COVID-19 concerns grow

Virus Outbreak School Masks
Posted at 8:38 AM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 08:38:02-04

TAMPA, Fla.  — As the COVID-19 delta variant sweeps through our communities, there are already cases reported in Tampa Bay area schools within just a week of classes starting.

Experts say kids are taking notice.

“If they’re hearing those messages that this virus is more significant for children, then they are going to be scared of that,” said Dr. Sheriece Sadberry, Psychologist.

RELATED: Tampa Bay schools report 1,400+ COVID-19 cases in students, staff

She says one thing that could be contributing to more anxiety is the uncertainty of what’s next.

“They don’t know what to do because they go to school and some kids have a mask and some kids don’t have a mask and so depending on how parents are talking to them about what’s going on then they’re going to have a lot of uncertainty about what they should do,” said Sadberry.

“As we see our community and really the whole world struggling with this pandemic and the results of it, we are seeing that in schools,” said Donna Sicilian, Executive Director of Student Services for Pinellas County Schools.

Experts say there might also be some bullying in school if your child wears a mask and others don’t.

“There’s the peer kind of pressure of like my friends aren’t wearing masks and should I wear a mask and what does that mean,” said Sadberry.

RELATED: Nearly 5,600 Hillsborough students isolated or quarantined 1 week into school year

Mental health experts say it’s important to pay attention to your kids. With the pandemic now reignited and new worries about contracting the virus at school, it can take a big mental toll.

“Your teenagers are going to be struggling a lot more with it because they for the most part really have those social relationships… It’s more of you looking at what’s changing in your child, so every kid would be different,” said Sadberry.

She suggests using the acronym ‘PIECES’ to remember signs to look out for:

  • P: Physiological symptoms like stomach aches and nausea
  • I: Increased irritability
  • E: Expressing fears or worries
  • C: Changes to sleep patterns
  • E: Elevation in energy, more excitable
  • S: Social interaction changes, more withdrawn

Experts say it’s important to talk to your children if you notice any of these things, ask them how they’re feeling, and even call your pediatrician if you’re concerned.

“If they see your fear, they’re going to feel fear. So it’s really important for us as parents to taper our own anxiety in having those conversations with them so we’re not putting our anxiety into our children,” said Sadberry.

“If we’re intervening and recognizing early that this is impacting them and then we give them coping skills and we help them figure out how to move forward, then they can be successful,” she added.