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2 On Your Side: Parents Seeing Uptick In Stress, Anxiety Levels In Post-COVID World

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – For parents, the lockdown brought with it a host of challenges, from online learning to cancelled sports and social activities for their kids.

Many of us assumed that once the lockdown was lifted, and we could get back to a more normal way of life, our stress levels would get better. However, some parents are reporting that their stress and anxiety levels have gone up now that we have reopened.

After more than sixteen months of shutdowns, lockdowns and Zooms, classes, activities and meetups are back and parents are getting pushed to the limit.

"I think for a lot of us, we feel really out of shape," clinical psychologist Dr. David Swanson said.

Swanson tells CBS2's Kristine Lazar that after the time at home, children are ready to get back out and get social. Their parents are ready too but are struggling readjusting.

"After being at home for a year and a half and having to step back out into the world with your kids, who are obviously wanting to see their friends, play sports and do all those great things, in addition to everything you have to get done as a parent, it becomes incredibly overwhelming because you just feel like you don't have the time to do it. I mean, we used to do this, but it feels like it's all new again. You know, for many parents who are in this situation, we went from 100 to zero, like nothing at all. And now we're going from zero to 100."

Mother of three Rebecca Morrissey is shuttling her children between school, scouts, soccer, dance and cheerleading.

"It's really hard for me to say no because I feel like they missed out on so much," Morrissey said.

Alison Friedman has two very active daughters. She says that the balancing act is a challenge every day.

"I was excited for things to return to normal, but with a little bit like a 'normal lite,'" Friedman said. "So I made intentions to not over-program ourselves, because I knew how relieving that was, and that was a silver lining of the lockdown. But now that we are easing into more activities, I am starting to remember how tiring it is."

Then you factor in the COVID-19 fears.

"Normally I wouldn't even blink about a little sniffle," Friedman said. "And now you get the sniffle and you have to wait, is this going to turn into something else? It's almost like I am closing my eyes and holding my breath."

"I feel like it's kind of a house of cards, and if one little card gets pulled out, then the whole thing crumbles," Morrissey said.

The stress is real and parents have more on their plates than ever before. Swanson's advice to parents feeling the pressure is that it is OK to say no.

"You are the parent," Swanson said. "You need to set limits and boundaries. It's OK to say no. I think it's important you make order out of chaos. Which means you need to sit down and figure out everything going on, take an hour and figure this out. 'What do we have to get done?' You set limits and let them know, this is the way it's going to be and everything will work out."

As much as parents are feeling the stress of reopening, so are the children. Swanson said he is seeing a surge in mental health visits for kids. ER visits are up too. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently put out a urgent warning declaring the mental health crisis among children a national emergency.

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