Behavioral and Emotional Disorders in Children during the COVID-19 Epidemic

A lot has changed within this past year regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. “The European Paediatric Association-Union of National European Paediatric Societies and Associations (EPA-UNEPSA) has established a collaborative working group with key Chinese academic institutions and medical centers with the purpose of facilitating the reciprocal exchange of information and sharing scientific knowledge,” (Jiao, et. al., 2020). The purpose of this group is to raise awareness to children’s psychological needs during epidemics and report early data collected.

Children are affected by the COVID-19 epidemic by experiencing fears, uncertainties, and physical and social isolation. A study conducted in Shaanxi Province in February 2020 was that the most common psychological and behavioral problems in children ages 3-18 were clinginess, distraction, irritability, and fear of asking questions about the epidemic. This was conducted by an online survey that also addressed poor sleep, poor appetite, physical discomfort, agitation and inattention, clinginess, and separation problems. This study’s intention was not to diagnose but to screen for disorders as a “first step approach”. “Understanding their reactions and emotions is essential to properly address their needs,” (Jiao, et. al., 2020). 

This study states that “resilience… should be nurtured and implemented by public health programs in children and teens living in areas hit by calamities such as epidemics… if properly supported… children and adolescents can appropriately overcome a condition of distress and prospectively stabilize emotionally and physiologically” (Jiao, et. al., 2020). 

Music therapy has been suggested by pediatricians working in the Shaanxi Province to address fears and concerns and to reduce the worry, fear, and stress that a child may feel. This as well as increasing communication, playing collaborative games, and physical activities can support children getting through this time. This study also suggests that parents pay attention to sleeping difficulties, sleep hygiene, nightmares, relaxation methods, and a positive psychological attitude to reduce stress and divert attention to more productive and positive direction. 

By Gwen D’Amico, MT-BC

Jiao, W. Y., Wang, L. N., Liu, J., Fang, S. F., Jiao, F. Y., Pettoello-Mantovani, M., & Somekh, E. (2020). Behavioral and emotional disorders in children during the COVID-19 epidemic. The journal of Pediatrics, 221, 264.