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The strain of the COVID-19 pandemic on children underscores the need for pediatricians
to address emotional and behavioral health as part of standard care, according to
updated AAP interim guidance.
Supporting the Emotional and Behavioral Health Needs of Children, Adolescents and
Families during the COVID-19 Pandemicoutlines continued and emerging challenges children face as the pandemic continues
and discusses how pediatricians can assist families. The guidance also emphasizes
the importance of partnering with families, agencies and other professionals to address:
Suicidal ideation and attempts have increased among youth during the pandemic. The updated guidance urges pediatricians to share resources and use telehealth tools. “These crises have strained further an already challenged behavioral health infrastructure
and underscore the severity of the behavioral health crisis that is unfolding,” according
to the guidance.
Pediatricians can advise caregivers to be aware of loneliness, isolation and uncertainty
in children and identify emotional and behavioral responses and needs in the context
of typical development.
Encouraging children and adolescents to participate in physical activities and spend
time outdoors with peers, while practicing risk mitigation strategies, can help improve
physical and mental health, Youth may also experience positive emotional benefits
via increased socialization with friends, according to the guidance. “Socializing
with peers is a mainstay of child and adolescent development,” the guidance said.
“Following local, state and national guidelines for physical distancing should remain
an urgent priority while families help find paths for youth to socialize safely.”
Appropriate allocation of resources is necessary to address the pandemic’s impacts,
particularly for under-resourced communities, populations facing inequities, children
and youths with special health care needs and children in child welfare and juvenile
justice systems, according to the AAP.
The AAP noted that the pandemic has exacerbated existing disparities among children
and families with emotional and health challenges. These families face additional
risks such as increased morbidity and mortality and barriers to health care (e.g.,
COVID-19 vaccination) and education access.
The AAP continues to monitor the impact of the pandemic on communities of color, including
racism and xenophobia against Chinese Americans (https://bit.ly/3eywQWQ). “The impact of racism, including structural racism on the emotional and economic
well-being of families of color cannot be overstated,” according to the guidance.
Pediatricians can help address health inequities by identifying culturally effective
solutions and reaching out to community-based organizations or partners for resources
and programs with which families identify.
“Frequent follow up and monitoring for subthreshold concerns may be accomplished
through telehealth visits with the pediatrician to check in on the child and family’s
status and functioning,” according to the guidance. It also urges referral to mental
health providers for children with more severe emotional or behavioral manifestations.
Copyright © 2021 American Academy of Pediatrics