Dinner with a doctor

Parenting During a Pandemic

an illustration of a parent and child in distress

The pandemic has been stressful for children and families. Some have endured great losses, including the death of a loved one. Fears of getting sick from the virus, or of a family member getting sick, have been ever present.

With many prepandemic support systems unavailable, daycares and schools closed, and isolation from friends, children of all ages suffered disruption in their lives and routines.

Emory child and adolescent psychiatrist Jennifer Holton (below with her son, 8, and daughter, 5)

Emory child and adolescent psychiatrist Jennifer Holton (below with her son, 8, and daughter, 5) has first-hand knowledge of the multiple roles parents have been called on to fill during the pandemic.

They learned to wear masks, to distance from others, and to wash their hands longer and with more frequency. There were terrifying news reports. Spending day after day at home began to feel long and tedious. 

For parents, the pandemic has been a double stressor.

You’re making life and safety decisions for yourself and your children, as well as taking on roles you may feel unqualified for: teacher, counselor, social events coordinator, infectious disease expert.

Indeed, you might be in need of a little professional advice yourself. To that end, Emory Medicine invited child and adolescent psychiatrist Jennifer Holton, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the School of Medicine, to host our virtual Dinner with a Doctor panel. 

Holton took questions from six panelists about their parenting concerns (including one mom who Zoomed in from the sidelines of her child’s soccer game). As the program director for Emory’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (CAMP) Fellowship Program, she has expertise in the treatment of ADHD, anxiety, and mood disorders in children and adolescents. “And I’m a mom of two, so I’m also parenting during a pandemic,” Holton told panelists. “I sympathize on multiple levels.”

A JAMA Pediatrics article from August 2021 reported that the prevalence of depression and anxiety among children and adolescents around the world has doubled from prepandemic rates. “These issues existed before, but they certainly have been exacerbated,” Holton says. “I think we can all appreciate, having kids, that we’ve seen increases in other things, like sleep disruption—whether from anxiety or changes in schedules and routines—and attentional issues related to anxiety or depression or just Zoom fatigue. It’s challenging to know, is this ADHD or the pandemic fog we’re all experiencing?”

Everyone is home, and parents are under a tremendous pressure. “You’re not only trying to do your normal job, suddenly you’re supervising your children at the same time and helping to teach the older kids,” she says. “Throw in cleaning, cooking, all these things 24/7. Some have had job losses and financial stressors. We’re tired, right? As human beings, it’s a lot.”

A montage of headshots of Tionna Carthon,  Jennifer Checkner, Leah Gottesman, Martha Nolan, Roger Slavens, and Krystal Woods

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