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Checking in on your child's mental health during the pandemic

The stress of the coronavirus pandemic can weigh on your kids just as heavily as it weighs on you. Here are some ways you can help them cope.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As the coronavirus pandemic continues, it’s never been more important to keep your mental health in check. The isolation, uncertainty and stress can affect multiple aspects of your life.

It can be just as difficult for your kids – but would you realize the symptoms of a mental health disorder, even if they were looking you in the face?

Here are some of the warning signs:

  • Extended periods of crying or sadness, for days or weeks
  • Avoidance of social interactions
  • Extreme irritability
  • Change in eating and sleeping habits
  • Drastic changes in mood or concentration

These behaviors could be a sign that it’s time to see a therapist. However, Dr. Katy Hopkins, a pediatric psychologist with Norton Children’s Medical Group, said professional help may not be your only option.

Just talking to your kids about how they’re feeling could relieve some of that stress.

“Kids need to talk about bad feelings as much as they need to talk about good feelings,” Dr. Hopkins said. “Worry helps us figure out how to problem-solve. How to make small steps to make ourselves feel better so we feel more secure. When our kids are sad or worried, the best we can do is acknowledge that they’re feeling that way and share times when we are also feeling that way.”

Dr. Hopkins also recommended making sure your kids are sticking to a routine when it comes to exercise, nutrition and sleep. She said most of her patients struggle most when they aren’t following a schedule.

Getting enough sleep is vitally important for both your physical and mental health. According to a study conducted by the sleep-tracking app Sleep Cycle, teens and young adults are struggling the most with sleep since the onset of the pandemic.

Dr. Hopkins said young children should be getting 12 hours of sleep, elementary students should get 10 to 11 hours and high school students should get at least 9 hours of sleep.

RELATED: How to get your kids back on a school-friendly sleep schedule

If you do feel like you and your child need professional help, Dr. Hopkins recommends a Telehealth appointment. She sees all her patients through Telehealth due to the pandemic and said there are added benefits to it over in-person therapy.

She said most kids and their parents appreciate not having to go through the hassle of masks and temperature checks. Plus, they may feel better talking to a mental health professional from a comfortable, familiar setting.

Learn more about the mental and behavioral health services Norton Children’s provides on its website.

Contact reporter Brooke Hasch atbhasch@whas11.com. Follow her onTwitter (@WHAS11Hasch) andFacebook.

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