While many adults have been dealing with the effects of the pandemic, the impact on our children and their health is one that cannot be overlooked. The pandemic has had a negative impact when it comes to children’s mental health, even for those who had no previous issues.
From virtual learning to social isolation, children have had many new situations thrown at them at once. It’s a lot for adults to take in and deal with, never mind children. Let’s take a closer look at the pandemic’s impact as well as what can be done to help children overcome the situation.
The Pandemic’s Impact on Children’s Mental Health
The closure of schools nationwide triggered a domino effect of issues for children since the pandemic hit in 2020. The switch to virtual learning is one that led many kids to feel anxious. It was something they had never experienced. Many felt as though they couldn’t learn and perform as well. This translated to worry about not getting good grades and, for older students, not getting into college.
For students with disabilities, a routine helps them stay structured and focused. Without it, it becomes harder for them to stay on track. This can increase problems for students who suffer from attention deficit disorders.
With schools closed, children not only had their routine ripped out from under them, but many lost valuable resources that they came to rely on. Schools not only provide education but also help to build students’ self-esteem, which is something they may not get elsewhere. Many students also lacked support and advice from teachers and staff. For many, these were role models that they relied upon to succeed.
In a Gallup Poll conducted in May 2020, nearly 30 percent of parents said their children were “already experiencing harm” to their emotional or mental health due to school closures and social distancing.
Many of these effects also lead to the need for more pediatric medical care. A report by the Centers for Disease Control showed that mental health-related emergency room visits for children ages 5-11 rose by 24% from mid-March of 2020 through October of 2020, compared to the same period the previous year. Visits among children ages 12-17 were up 31% compared to the same time the previous year.
Social Isolation and Mental Health
With many areas in lockdown due to the pandemic, children were forced to be isolated from friends and activities. This isolation can be overwhelming for many kids who were used to being social. Many kids don’t know how to be isolated. The concept is depressing and hard to process. This can lead kids to feel depressed and lonely.
Although they may have their family members inside their home, kids are used to playing with their peers at school and during activities. Having that taken away from them suddenly can be hard to process, especially when they don’t know when things will return to normal.
How Parents Can Help
As a parent, you want to help your child when you see them in distress. If you’ve noticed your child’s mental health suffering due to the pandemic, there are things you do to help.
Children need to feel supported and loved. Be sympathetic to their emotions and let them express themselves.
Plan safe outings
Although many activities are canceled, it doesn’t mean the fun is canceled too. It may take some creativity, but try to plan safe, COVID-friendly activities. This can give your child something to look forward to as well as have fun with their families.
Consider socially-distanced outings with friends
Depending on your comfort level, you may want to look into socially-distanced outings with friends. This way, children can see their friends and not feel as isolated. If in-person gatherings are not possible, consider online activities. Many places are offering online activities for kids to keep busy and see others their age.
Seek professional help
If you’ve tried to talk to your child and notice that you’re not getting anywhere, you may want to consider professional help. A trained counselor may be able to help your child in ways you can’t.
In the end, we must pay close attention to how the pandemic is impacting all aspects of our children’s lives. Being aware and being able to help can make all the difference.