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Kids navigate mental health challenges amidst COVID-19

A Children's Minnesota psychologist talks about the unique situations COVID-19 is presenting for children already dealing with anxiety and depression.

MINNEAPOLIS — COVID-19 is impacting the mental health of many kids, but this time can be especially difficult for kids who already struggle with things like anxiety and depression.

"It really can be a harder time and I'm noticing that as I'm working with my patients. The things that they used to count on and be able to predict are not there," says Sarah Jerstad, child psychologist at Children's Minnesota. 

Jerstad is still meeting with patients virtually. 

For those who've struggled with anxiety in the past, COVID-19 is adding an extra layer of challenges. 

"Kids with social anxiety, I think at the beginning it felt like a little relief from pressure," Jerstad says. "But what I'm seeing is those kids aren't as skilled at reaching out and connecting to people virtually and so they're getting more isolated, and just because you have social anxiety doesn't mean you don't want social connection."

For kids who've been on a journey with depression, isolation can make navigating day-to-day life more challenging. 

"One of the things we talk to kids and families about is, if you have depression, it's so important to seek social support and engage in daily activities and get out there. It's hard to do during COVID-19," Jerstad says.

Jerstad says kids are having to get creative with their coping strategies. 

For parents, Jerstad says it's ok to talk to your kids about how they're feeling and let them see how you're being impacted by all of this, too. 

"It's just a matter of being yourself. Don't try to be too tough or too strong for these kids or pretend that this is not a big deal. It is and they'll recognize that you're feeling that too. And if you're honest about it and if you can model that for your kids - it's actually really helpful," Jerstad says. 

Children's Minnesota is still offering mental health appointments with patients. To set up an appointment or learn more you can call 651-220-6724 or visit their website

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