DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN)– Health leaders across the country are saying that mental illness is spiking among young children, and even the top pediatricians in the country are calling the mental health of children and teens a national emergency.

They say kids are having to establish a new sense of normalcy, but constant changes are making that a challenge. “The world has changed and in those changes it feels like for some people they don’t even know how to navigate this world anymore,” said Executive Director ADAMH Helen Jones-Kelley.

Health leaders say mental health concerns have spiked among teens and children over the course of the coronavirus pandemic. If a parent is addressing concerns of anxiety or depression, behavioral health specialists advise them to allow their child to return to a sense of normalcy at their own pace.

“The biggest thing we have to take away from this is at your own rate, set your own rate and go at your comfort,” said Atrium Medical Center Behavioral Health Medical Director Dr. Jonathan Lazzara. “If you’re not comfortable, then start small.”

Specialists suspect that the heightened access of technology for children due to the pandemic has allowed them to further close themselves off, increasing concerns for the future.

“You’re not being crazy or not being anxious or paranoid by doing it at a slow rate, those are our loved ones and we treasure them, we just have to work out how to interact with them,” said Dr. Lazzara.

Overall, others say the key to success is engaging in open conversations and new routines for children will help rebuild a sense of normalcy.

“Don’t just keep it to yourself or in passing, really engage with other people because what we all need right now as we emerge from COVID is other people,” said Jones-Kelley.

Some recommendations by specialists were to get your kids outside and exercise as much as possible, and in those new routines, to make it a priority for face-to-face interactions.