NJ children are struggling with stress — what should parents do?
The past several months have been filled with tension, worry and anxiety. Not only for adults, but children as well.
Katie Stoeher, the deputy commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, said children may be worrying about economic issues in the home caused by the pandemic, or dealing with grief because of the death of a family member or loved one, and these issues are being exacerbated by social isolation, with little or no in-person school activities.
In fact, she noted the CDC has compiled data showing pediatric hospital emergency room visits for mental health issues is up significantly since the spring.
“It’s a stressful time for adults, it’s a stressful time for kids,” she said.
Help is available through the Children’s System of Care, a public behavioral health system for all children and adolescents up to age 21. The no-cost program provides access to mental health and substance abuse treatment as well as services for intellectual or developmental disabilities.
The PerformCare hotline, available 24/7, is 1-877-652-7624.
She noted sometimes it may be hard to know if a child’s behavior is just moodiness or a phase they are going through, but if parents are concerned they should reach out to PerformCare or discuss the situation with their child’s doctor.
“There’s no harm in asking somebody to talk to you about what’s happening with your child,” she said. “Any good mental health provider or doctor will have that conversation.”
Stoeher said signs of stress in youth can include a variety of things, including a lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy.
Like if they used to have a hobby they were attentive to and now they’re disinterested in that,” she noted, “or if they’re not able to connect socially with their friends in a way that seems positive.”