Youth Anxiety Center


Youth Anxiety Center

Advancing the Understanding and Treatment of Anxiety in Teens and Young Adults

Frequently Asked Questions about Anxiety and a Pandemic

Not all people respond to stress the same way. How people have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, adults and children alike, is certainly no different. When parents and caregivers calmly deal with the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic -- or any other situation that may come along in the future -- they provide the best emotional support for their children and family.

Here are a few frequently asked questions and answers to help identify increased stress in your child that may be a result of a pandemic, now or in the future.

Not all adolescents and young adults respond to stress in the same way. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions. Some of the most common changes to look for in younger children are excessive crying or irritation. In adolescents and young adults, signs may present as excessive worry, sadness, or irritability, poor school performance or avoiding school, difficulty with attention or concentration, and poor eating or sleeping habits.

Even though experimenting with sex, drugs, or alcohol is not uncommon for adolescents, excessive stress from the pandemic may initiate or push unhealthy behavior to a higher level. These behaviors should not be ignored or accepted as normal and may call for parental intervention. Such behaviors may be an indication of difficulty dealing with new social restrictions, a loss of independence if they are home more than usual, changes to their normal environment, difficulty coping with their emotions, or an underlying anxiety disorder that has surfaced because of it.

The most important thing a parent or caregiver can do is listen to their child without interrupting to hear what they have to say and express their feelings related to the pandemic. It may be difficult to do, but try to refrain from telling them how you feel and giving them advice until you let them talk and get their feelings and concerns off their chest to validate how much you understand what they are going through. Remember, they are missing out on things that adults may take for granted such as graduations, proms, job interviews, moving in day at college, and so many other milestones of youth. When they are ready to listen, you can talk about the COVID-19 pandemic, the different variants, or any other stressful situations in a manner they understand with a calm voice. Letting them know it’s okay to feel upset, and sharing with them how you are dealing with your stress, can help them learn how to cope with their stress too, and help reassure them that they are safe.

All people deal with change differently and children are no exception. School closings caused a great deal of stress for parents and children alike. When things like this occur, it’s best to try to develop new regular routines, create a regular schedule for learning activities, and be a role model by spending time with your child doing meaningful activities. If unhealthy behavior or an emotional state persists and begins to negatively impact your child’s ability to function in one or more settings (self, family, school, or community) you should consider seeking professional help.

NewYork-Presbyterian Youth Anxiety Center