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Kids may struggle with the pandemic even if they don't talk about it | The Rebound Tampa Bay

The coronavirus pandemic has been stressful not just for adults but children.
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Posted at 6:28 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 18:28:14-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- The coronavirus pandemic has been stressful not just for adults but children.

And as we look forward to a rebound from this pandemic, we're helping you find the resources to handle what's happening now and what comes next.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Sheila Katt-Beck says this is an unprecedented time so it's so normal if you're filled with stress and anxiety.

"We're all going through it. There's so many unknowns and that's the definition of the word anxiety is 'dread of the unknown,'" Katt-Beck said. "And we are just being flooded with unknowns, especially with how long will it last? Will it be back?"

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And that anxiety can wear down your immune system, she says.

Along with taking care of your physical health, Katt-Beck recommends taking care of your mental health by focusing on your blessings and what you're grateful for.

"Even at the end of your day, before you go to sleep, take time to think about 'what did I do today that I am proud of?'" she recommends.

And since young children cannot verbalize their feelings, they may show physical signs of distress.

"We look at things like, are they eating? Are they sleeping? Are they having a lot of nightmares? When they're playing, are they starting to get more aggressive with things? Are they showing frustration and anger?" Katt-Beck added.

Even younger children might regress with milestones like toilet training, especially if others in the household are not coping well with the pandemic.

"When little kids see us stressing about things, they take that on. They might not understand totally what's going on but they know there's disruption in the household," she warned.

And if you have teenagers who've missed out on graduation, prom or time with peers?

"They can't connect with their friends in the same way and its beyond frustrating. Also, let's not forget that they have a biological drive going on in their brains to separate and individuate from their parents," she explained.

And because teenagers have a different body clock than adults do, Katt-Beck says it's very normal for them to stay up late and sleep in.

So parents need to be more flexible and give their teenager room to grow.

"Maybe they eat their dinner sometimes at a different time? Give them that independence. That will really help them," she suggested.

There are things you can do to help you deal with the emotional challenges of COVID-19.

Dr. Katt-Beck recommends getting a children's book on "expressing your feelings" for the little ones so they can begin to identify words or pictures that relate to how they feel.

For your older kids, she says talk with them openly about COVID-19, answer questions, and share facts in a way they can understand.

And "model the way." Re-assure your child or teen they're safe and it's OK if they feel upset.

Finally, limit your family's exposure to news coverage of coronavirus, including social media.