70% of kids feel sad, worried or overwhelmed right now, says new survey

If your child is melting down, they are perfectly normal.

70% of kids feel sad, worried or overwhelmed right now, says new survey
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

A new survey is reinforcing why resiliency is more important in 2020 than ever before, and why parents are absolutely right to be worried about the mental health of children growing up during the pandemic.

ParentsTogether recently surveyed hundreds of families and found that six months into the pandemic, 70% of children report feeling sad, worried, or overwhelmed more often.

It gets worse when you break down the responses by family income levels, which illustrated how vital support for parents is during this economic crisis. Kids in families who make less than $50,000 a year are twice as likely to say that they felt sad, angry, scared, or lonely "a lot" in the past week – when compared to kids whose parents earn more than $100,000.


Those same kids were 20% more likely to report experiencing those negative feelings since the start of the pandemic, too.

"Children across the country have sent us a clear message six months into the pandemic—the kids are definitely not alright," said Justin Ruben, Co-Director of ParentsTogether in a statement. "Millions of kids are facing a food security crisis, piled on top of an educational equity crisis, piled on top of a school funding crisis, piled on top of a mental health crisis. Congress must act now to pass another relief package to get desperately needed money to families and schools. If they fail to act, an entire generation of kids could suffer lifelong harm."

Parents also participated in the survey. About 47% reported worrying for their child's mental health and 45% have had more challenges with their child's behavior since the pandemic began and 30% of parents are now worried about providing enough for their children to eat now that they're not in school.

The survey also asked open-ended questions to allow children to respond in their own words. Their responses show that even the youngest kids are grappling with the immediacy of illness, unemployment and death.

A 7-year-old said: "I miss seeing my friends and my mom having money to get us things we need. The last time I was scared, I was scared about not having a house."

"I miss being able to go out without worrying about catching something or fearing to get close to people," a 15-year-old explained. "The last time I was scared was about dying from the virus. The last time I felt happy was when I was able to see my grandfather without being worried that I might bring a virus that could kill him."

A 5-year-old said: "I was scared about losing our house and not having nowhere to stay."

The good news? Our kids are going to get through this with our help.

"Past experience has taught us that caring grown-ups in children's lives can make an enormous difference by providing safety, comforting reassurance, age-appropriate information and helpful guidance. Once your child's immediate physical needs have been met, meeting their emotional needs is key to helping them deal with their confusion, anxiety or fear," Denise Daniels previously wrote for Motherly.

"Kids will generally 'bounce back' if during the pandemic they have received emotional support from caring adults in their lives, and if they've learned resiliency through skills and techniques that help them manage emotional stress, such as yoga, deep breathing and talking to someone. That's why your love and support is so important right now: Calm parents encourage calm children."

If you can't be calm right now, if this seems all seems so hard, and you're tired of being the rock for your family, know that we're here for you, mama.

America's moms need help so we can help our kids. Motherly stands with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country. Our kids need us to be strong, but we can't be strong if society's support for mothers remains so weak.

The message to policymakers in every level of government is simple: Our kids will get through this if they have the support of their parents, but parents need support, too.

Jamie Orsini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, military spouse, and a mom to two busy toddlers. In her spare time, Jamie volunteers with the Solar System Ambassador program with NASA/JPL and reads anything she can get her hands on. She’s currently working on her first novel.

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