The impact of pandemic on children’s mental health is focus of new FSOS course

A professor talks to a guest at a University event.
Dr. Gerald August (left) discussed his work with a guest at the UMN Discovery Showcase of the new Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain in October, 2019. Photo by Patrick O’Leary.

Gerald August, professor, will lead a new special topics course in the Department of Family Social Science this fall that will explore the impacts that the pandemic has had on children and young adults and how practitioners can understand the root cause of negative behaviors and develop prevention strategies.  

“The Impact of Covid-19 on Children’s Mental Health” is a three-credit course meeting virtually throughout fall semester. Upper level undergraduates and master’s students pursuing family education and child development degrees will find the course valuable in deepening their knowledge of child and adolescent mental health and how children and youth are affected by adverse life experiences.

Dr. August has over 30 years of experience in prevention science research and produced a body of scholarly work that includes 90+ peer-reviewed scientific articles, eight National Institute of Health-funded research grants and numerous presentations at national conferences. He is principal investigator on a National Institutes of Mental Health-funded prevention center that specializes in the personalization of mental health interventions for children.

The outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been stressful to children, youth and families. For children, fear, anxiety and social isolation can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions leading them to act out ­with a variety of negative reactions and defiant behaviors or exhibit profound sadness and a loss of interest in school and peer-related activities.

For adolescents, anger, loneliness, and hostility may elicit stress and trauma resulting in physical illness, depression, substance use and abuse, impairment in adaptive functioning and conflicts with siblings and parents. Even more alarming is the increase in suicide witnessed among young people as well as child abuse, domestic violence, and substance abuse observed among family members. Such reactions have serious short-term impact but also consequential effects on future adjustment and well-being.

In the course, students will learn conceptual approaches and practice elements to combat the negative effects of the COVID pandemic including identifying signs and symptoms, understanding the pandemic’s psychological effects, teaching coping strategies, and effective parenting practices.

In addition, students will learn more about psychotherapy interventions for clinically-significant reactions such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, including trauma-focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), modular CBT for childhood anxiety, mindfulness training for adolescents, interpersonal therapy and parent management training.

Class sessions will focus on helping children process grief and loss during COVID-19, understanding the differences between a difficult moment and a trauma, and “checking in on your teen’s mood”.

Course details

FSoS 4150 – Special Topics: Impact of Covid-19 on Children’s Mental Health
3 credits
T/Th 4:30-5:45 pm – online
Instructor:  Gerry August

Students will be provided with resource materials that support learning for each topic and will receive didactic lectures. Classes will give students the opportunity for synchronous online discussions and live chat sessions with peers. Students will be expected to complete several homework assignments and a project that demonstrates integration of course content.

Visit One Stop to learn more about registering or discuss with your advisor.