This pandemic has been emotionally exhausting for many. Information about the coronavirus seems never-ending, sometimes unreliable, and ever-changing. I would bet that many households are feeling stressed and scared. Most adults can recognize their need for help when feeling overloaded by stress. Kids might not recognize that they are stressed. Further, kids might not realize that changes in their behavior and/or actions could be stemming from their own stress, or from the stress in their household.
It can be difficult to differentiate whether a kiddo’s stress levels are considered “normal” or average for their age, or if it is something that should be addressed by professionals. “American Psychological Association” (apa.org, 2020) explains that behaviors that signal that a child is stressed are usually behavioral, emotional, or even physical. Some of the physical signs may include: 1) frequent headaches 2) frequent stomachaches or 3) changes in their sleeping and eating patterns. Emotional signs of stress may include 1) making excessive negative statements about themselves or others or 2) withdrawing or becoming clingy with family or peers. Behavioral signs of stress may include 1) resistance to activities they previously loved 2) frequent nightmares 3) acting excessively irritable.
In some situations, a kiddo’s caregiver will be able to assist their child in healthy coping techniques. But in some situations, caregivers may benefit from professional assistance in the assessment and treatment of their child’s stress level, mental health, or behavioral problems. Luckily, Oregon has some great resources.
Youth Era seems like an amazing program. I just learned about it as I am writing this. It is less of a resource for parents to assess mental health and more of a service for older kids and teens to engage with. Parents could point their children toward Youth Era: but it seems to be up to the kiddo or teen to participate. Youth Era has some great virtual choices for kids and teens to manage stress, engage in their community, identify struggles with their mental health, develop leadership skills, and connect with peers. Pre-pandemic: Youth Era had “drop-in centers” in Clackamas, North Bend, Eugene, Medford, and eventually, they will have a location in St. Helens. The drop-in centers provide activities for kids, access to mental health professionals, and opportunities for kids to connect with other kids in a safe setting. Currently, Youth Era has several virtual services on a variety of platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitch (I have no idea what that is!) and they also have “virtual one-on-one’s” available.
Here is the link to their virtual services: https://www.youthera.org/virtual-support
Oregon Health Authority-
The Oregon Health Authority offers four different services relating to Early Childhood mental health: 1) Child-parent psychotherapy options 2) Parent-child interaction therapy 3) Oregon Early Childhood Diagnostic crosswalk or 4) Generation PMTO (parent management training, Oregon model). Some of these services are meant to aid children who have already been diagnosed with mental disorders, and others are meant to help parents identify issues with stress that their kiddo may be dealing with.
For more information, here is the link: https://www.oregon.gov/oha/HSD/BH-Child-Family/Pages/Early-Childhood.aspx
Secondstep.org is a helpful website that provides resources for parents and teachers to teach kids about social-emotional learning. Although most of these educational resources are not free, the website has created a huge variety of resources specifically for this time of COVID-19. The program offers these services because they realize this is likely an extremely stressful time for kiddos. Some of the availabilities include back-to-school support for educators, on-demand emotion management lessons with counselors for kids, and “imagine neighborhood daily adventures” podcasts and family-friendly daily activities. This program might be beneficial for kids who seem to have stress that can be helped through structured activities and education rather than intensive treatment for mental disorders.
To explore this website and their offerings, here is the link: https://www.secondstep.org/covid19support
The Multnomah County website relays a variety of resources relating to Early Childhood Mental Health services including: 1) School-based mental health 2) Wrap-around services 3) Intensive care coordination 4) Early psychosis intervention or 5) Services for children with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
If any of these services sound like they may be useful to your family, here is the link: https://multco.us/mhas/early-childhood-mental-health
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Wow. This comprehensive webpage offers a huge variety of adolescent mental health services within Oregon. There is one section for services within Portland and one section for services available outside of Portland. The services and their offerings have a large range according to the kiddos age, whether the problem is mental/emotional/physical/developmental, whether the family would like inpatient or outpatient care, whether the family needs help in determining a diagnosis or treatment, among other considerations. This is a great, plentiful resource for families trying to decide what kind of care their kiddo may need.
Many of these services have toll-free phone numbers that the services claim is a “good place to start” for a family that is not sure if their child could benefit from professional assistance or a diagnosis of their mental health. As I mentioned earlier, some families will be able to alter factors of their home situation and be successful in helping their child’s mental health, while others might need a professional diagnosis and treatment for their kiddo’s mental health. Some families may be able to call these resources, make the adjustments they recommend and help their child. Other families may have to seek further support. Either way, these resources have many options and were developed to help children and families who are dealing with adolescent stress and/or mental disorders.
Best of luck to you all in helping your kiddo to increase their happiness by addressing and treating their mental health.