Mental health experts offer tips on how to recognize, help ease your child's anxiety

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- America's emotional health has really suffered during the pandemic and children and teens haven't been immune.

Life is still anything but "normal" for many kids. Online schooling, masks, and social distancing are keeping anxiety and isolation high.

"Because living as if something bad is going to happen constantly is exhausting," said Jason Youngblood, CIGNA's Director of Behavioral Strategy.

Youngblood says young children can go backwards on behavior because they lack the words to express their feelings.

"They will regress to behavior you thought you had moved beyond," he said. "You often see it with things like school refusal, or separation anxiety."

For teens, Youngblood says being more withdrawn than usual, changes in eating or sleeping, and not enjoying favorite activities are red flags.

In response to a 31% spike in mental health emergency room visits among middle schoolers, a new national PSA campaign uses music to get families talking.

It's hoped that dealing with the surge in mental health issues might decrease the epidemic of youth violence.

"Sometimes the depression and anxiety can impair a kid's thinking skills, and they become impulsive. So they don't, I don't think a lot of them mean to engage in negative behaviors, but it's this impulse, like - I'm upset, I'm gonna make somebody else upset," said Dr. Alfie Breland-Noble.

Youngblood knows first-hand that telling a child with anxiety not to worry isn't helpful.

"There are times in my life, I know I shouldn't worry, but I don't have the ability to shut it off as easily as other people," he said.

So, offer support and reassurance, and that you'll take care of your child.
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