CDC reports mental health of children under 18 has been forgotten

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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that more than 140,000 children under the age of 18 have lost a parent, custodial grandparent or grandparent due to death linked to COVID-19. This includes those who have died directly from COVID and those who have died during the pandemic due to a lack of quality health care or movement.

For children who have lost loved ones, the CDC believes that identifying and caring for children throughout their developmental stages is an integral part of the pandemic response.

“You think about the loss, but you don’t think about the lasting effects and the impact it’s going to have on people, because you are focusing on the physical illness, not the mental part”, Belinda Valenzuela, LPC- Associated with Brazos Valley Mental Health & Wellness, said.

The CDC reports that the children’s mental health that goes unnoticed by many is the “hidden pandemic.” The organization also reported that Texas is one of the states with the most children facing the loss of a loved one due to death from COVID-19. Valenzuela believes this is starting to have an impact on children from an early age.

“It can manifest as acting out or physical symptoms like my stomach hurts, my headache,” Valenzuela said. “They might get irritable, they might get withdrawn. A child who is really small might regress in toilet training.

These behaviors can have long-term and lasting effects as these children grow into adolescents and adults. These effects include lowered self-esteem, substance abuse and suicidal violence, according to the CDC.

In addition to professional help, Valenzuela believes you can help the children and teens in your life who may be experiencing loss.

“If you show a child that it’s okay to talk about emotions, they’ll feel like it’s okay to talk about emotions,” Valenzuela said.

Valenzuela believes journaling and art projects that help honor lost loved ones can also be helpful. Additionally, Valenzuela thinks it’s important to remember that everyone treats grief differently and that patience is key.

For more information on mental health counseling in the Brazos Valley, click on here. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, The New York Life Foundation and The Institute of the Spirit of the Child also has resources on how to care for grieving children.

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