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As 2020 comes to an end, let’s take a look at health this year.
In a year defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, parents have several concerns about the health and safety of their children.
Overuse of social media/screen time (72%), bullying/cyberbullying (62%), and Internet safety (62%) were parents top overall concerns, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health 2020. The survey asked a national sample of Latino, Black, and white parents to rate the top health concerns for U.S. children ages 0-18.
“Overall, 8 of the Top 10 concerns most commonly rated by all parents as a ‘big problem’ are frequently associated with changes in lifestyle and may be related to efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the survey results. “These include overuse of social media/screen time, internet safety, unhealthy eating, depression/suicide, and lack of physical activity. COVID-19, the disease itself, is thought to be a “big problem” by almost half of all parents (48%) coming in at #10.”
Top concerns Latino parents had for their children were:
- Overuse of social media/screen time (73%)
- Bullying/cyberbullying (72%)
- Internet safety (72%)
- Smoking/vaping (67%)
- Drinking or using drugs (67%)
- Racism (65%)
- Depression/suicide (64%)
- COVID (64%)
- Stress/anxiety (62%)
- Child abuse & neglect (61%)
It’s important to understand why parents have these concerns and how we can address them for a happy and healthy 2021.
Health Concerns for Latino Parents
Latino parents are primarily concerned about the children’s internet use, drug and alcohol use, and mental health issues. There are also concerns about racism and COVID-19, both of which have been heavily impactful in 2020.
Internet use. The shift to online life during the pandemic has caused parents to be extra aware of children’s internet safety.
While there is the risk cyberbullying and abuse, researchers say parents should keep in mind how the internet can provide social connections for kids while staying at home and being safe from the pandemic.
“Although there is concern about too much screen time for kids, it is also important for parents to remember that this can be an important vehicle for them to maintain social and family connections that are so vital for their emotional well-being during these stressful times,” according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “Especially for teens who are attending school virtually, home isolation would be so much more difficult without technology in general.”
Bullying, whether online or in person, can cause serious health issues for children.
“Bullying can stress a Latino child’s emotions and mental health, and can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes,” according to a Salud America! resource post.
Substance abuse. Latino parents are also concerned about drugs, alcohol, and tobacco use.
Parents should keep in mind that studies show that a supportive environment can be more helpful than punishing children and teens who fall victim to tobacco and drug use.
Racism. Latino parents were concerned about the effect of racism on their children.
Unfortunately, racism can have wide-ranging impacts on children’s health.
“Racial/ethnic discrimination impacts educational attainment, which, in turn, impacts future educational, health, social, and career opportunities for Latinos and other people of color,” according to a Salud America! research review.
Racism can also have direct problems to children’s physical and mental health.
“The impact of racism can manifest in physical problems such as disparities in the rates of diseases like asthma among different populations, and also in children’s mental health. Children targeted by racism have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and behavior problems,” according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
Mental health. Researchers believe that children might be experiencing more stress, anxiety, and depression because of COVID-19.
Children can also develop mental health issues from child abuse and neglect, another concern of Latino parents.
Unfortunately, child abuse has been on the rise since the pandemic began in March.
Latinos also face a lot of stress, which exacerbates mental health problems.
“Latinos reported the highest stress across four major sources of stress including money, employment, family responsibilities and health concerns,” according to survey conducted by the American Psychological Association.
Depression and stress can lead to worse issues, like suicide. Latina teens have higher rates of suicide attempts, with more than 1 in 4 Latina high-school students having suicidal thoughts.
COVID-19. Infection from COVID-19 is a large concern for Latino parents, likely due to how significantly the virus has affected the Latino community.
Latinos are almost 3 times as likely to become infected from COVID-19 than white people and are twice as likely to die from it. So Latinos must stay careful and vigilant.
All of these health concerns will continue to impact Latino children as we move into 2021.
Here’s how parents can be aware of them and address them to help their children live happily and safely.
Addressing Latino Parents’ Health Concerns for 2021
Latino parents should keep these issues top of mind as we settle into the new year.
Many of these health concerns can be addressed with an open conversation between parents and children, suggest researchers from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
“Parents need to have ongoing conversations with their children and teens to guide them in safe internet practices, including the protection of their privacy and how to avoid those who try to prey on kids via the internet,” according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
This can also be true for addressing negative emotions and mental health concerns like anxiety, depression, and suicide.
“Children need an outlet for their emotions, and parents may notice changes such as increased behavioral issues of younger kids or more moodiness or lethargy from older kids and teenagers,” according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “In these situations, parents should encourage children and teens to talk about their feelings, and find ways to help them cope with the new reality. Some will benefit from maintaining routines and trying to keep things as ‘normal’ as can be, while others may need increased flexibility.”
Parents should give extra attention to children who are struggling with the loss of a loved one.
“Children who have lost family members to COVID-19 may need special attention and mental health services to help them understand and cope with their loss,” according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
Parents can help children struggling with racism and discrimination by teaching kids to feel empowered.
“Racism can instill a sense of helplessness in both children and teens. Recognizing the impact of racism on children is a first step for everyone in our society to take action to address it. Standing up to racism can make a difference for all kids in many ways. On a personal level, seeing they can be part of a solution teaches kids to feel empowered, not helpless. On a social level, individual and community actions can promote racial equality and justice,” according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
Another way that parents can help kids is by making sure that schools have the resources to support students emotionally and academically.
Even when kids are home and schools are closed, schools can help support children who are exposed to trauma.
You can download the free Salud America! “Handle With Care Action Pack.” The Action Pack helps police, school, and mental healthcare leaders start the Handle with Care program, in which police notify schools when they encounter children at a traumatic scene, so schools can provide support right away.
Over 700 school and police leaders around the nation already have downloaded the Action Pack to start Handle With Care in their areas!