Kids, teens & stress: Signs the pandemic is taking its toll

Archive, COVID Blog, February, Mental Well Being, Month

A year into the pandemic, more and more kids are feeling the mental health strain.

In 2020, in the middle of March, it felt like everything changed.

Seemingly overnight, safety protocols aimed to slow the explosive and deadly spread of COVID-19 shut down businesses, closed schools and sent everyone to shelter at home.

Many adults possessed the skills and ability to adapt to the extraordinary, rapidly changing times.

Teens and younger kids, however, were found to have a much more difficult time.

“Big and small disruptions to our lives and routines can have a significant impact on our overall mental well-being and functioning,” said Theresa Chapman, manager of behavioral health at McLaren Macomb. “Children in particular don’t have the advanced coping mechanism to adjust to changes that come along during a pandemic, and they may exhibit symptoms of anxiety and not have the words to explain what they’re feeling or experiencing.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, statistics have shown a significant increase in mental health-related emergency department visits — often the first point of treatment in a mental health crisis — along with an alarming upward trend in suicides.

“All of this makes it even more important for parents and guardians to stay plugged in and take notice of behavioral changes and signs of pandemic-related depression and anxiety,” Chapman said. “Talk to your kids, engage with them about how they’re doing with everything.

“Be reassuring, and talk to them on their level in terms and questions they can understand and respond to.”

Signs in teens


  • Unusual changes in mood
  • Frequent conflicts with friends and family
  • Isolating from others, especially family and friends
  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep
  • Fluctuations in weight and/or eating habits
  • Difficulty remembering and/or concentrating
  • Declining academics
  • Changing appearance and declining personal hygiene
  • Increasing risky behavior, such as experimenting with drugs
  • Mentioning suicide or talking about death

Signs in younger children


  • Waking up more often in the middle of the night
  • Increased irritability and more difficult to console
  • Becoming more withdrawn or clingy
  • Increased and more intense tantrums
  • Bedwetting
  • Appearing unsatisfied
  • Aggression during recreation time