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How young people respond

How young people may respond to the current situation.
A child and her father playing a game
© University of East Anglia

Young people – even infants and toddlers – are keen observers of people and environments, and they notice and react to stress in their parents and other caregivers, peers, and community members.

They may ask direct questions about what is happening now or what will happen in the future and may behave differently in reaction to strong feelings (e.g., fear, worry, sadness, anger) about the pandemic and related conditions. Children also may worry about their own safety and the safety of their loved ones, how they will get their basic needs met (e.g., food, shelter, clothing), and uncertainties for the future.

How a child responds to coronavirus situation may depend on several factors, such as:

  • Age of the child
  • Language/comprehension abilities and developmental level of the child
  • Presence, severity and type of anxiety disorder(s) or other psychiatric conditions,
  • Prior history of trauma or serious illness of loved ones or self
  • Occurrence of other recent stressors or major life events (such as parental divorce, death of loved ones, major move, change of school)

Therefore, a parent’s response would need to be tailored to the individual situation and context surrounding their child/teen.

It is also important to remember that children’s responses to stressful events are unique and varied. Some children may be irritable or clingy, and some may regress, demand extra attention, or have difficulty with self-care, sleeping, and eating.

New and challenging behaviours are natural responses, and adults can help by showing empathy and patience and by calmly setting limits when needed.

© University of East Anglia
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Anxiety in Children and Young People during COVID-19

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