How the Pandemic affected Children’s Mental Health
11 Mar 2021 | Anne Marie Fogarty
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As the world is unwavering with the Covid-19 pandemic, the monitoring and awareness of physical health were marked by the trend of using sanitisers and masks. But along with the staggering deterioration of physiological health, the psychological well-being of the world was also at stake. Our tiny tots and rebellious teenagers fought quietly their own battle, but what has been the negative effects on their mental health?
Emotional and social impacts form Covid-19.
Children were emotionally and socially impacted during the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, multiple studies have shown that lockdown effects have spiked huge concerns surrounding children’s mental health from the prenatal stage to early adulthood.
One of the studies suggested displays a shift in different behavioural patterns among children. Children belonging to specific age groups showed:
- more irritability
- separation anxiety
- feelings of isolation.
As the psychological symptoms progressed, the effects of poor mental health manifested physically and were reflected by:
- unorganised sleeping schedules
- loss of appetite
- aggressive behaviour among children, leading to fights among siblings.
Children and teenagers had to bear the pandemic’s brunt in areas important for enhancing socio-developmental skills like schools, colleges and homes.
In fact, the two main spaces that help develop children and support their growth are the home and the school- the later was closed for some time, leaving a void that was difficult to fill effectively, the former changed from a safe habitat to a crowded and stressed environment with home-schooling, parents stressed out working from home and limits to the contact with their friends.
After the lockdown measures were put in order, school and college shutdown has negatively contributed to children’s well-being. As schools were common ground for socialising and learning, the sudden shift of confining themselves into their homes has left them with no choice for socialisation, less physical activities, uncertainty, and increased anxiety levels.
Due to the school’s shutdown, children were also linked to having unorganised routines, low discipline, and no outside activity, which lead to fatigue and lethargy being prominent physiological symptoms. The commencement of online lectures has been a considerable debate as children have increased their screen time and have less outdoor activities. Moreover, boredom and lack of exercising of creative muscles have seen a dip in creating innovative ideas, etc.
Graduate students have shown high levels of stress and anxiety as the fear of no employment and disruption of educational semesters was a prime concern looming over them.
As the family is the closest to socialisation during the pandemic, children have been clingier, dependant, and irritable towards their parents or siblings.
Children who hail from dysfunctional families and sexually abusive parents felt more unsafe, anxious around their surroundings as exposure to abuse became easier due to compulsory confinement.
Also, families with children who require special needs and assistance, like kids with learning disabilities, have dealt with challenging issues. Parents of such children have had to address problems effectively as closed spaces are not the best environment. Locked indoors can lead to regression in social and developmental skills and add to unnecessary conflicts and trauma.
How to recognise the signs of mental health problems in children affected by covid and lockdown
Unlike adults, children may present differently with mental health complaints.
Possible signs include:
- Unusual outbursts or excessive mood swings
- Worrying to the point of getting stomach aches or headaches
- Regular nightmares and a lack of sleep
- Avoiding activities they once enjoyed doing
- Unusually quiet, sad or withdrawn
- Change in appetite – it may be eating more or less food.
How can we help our children after lockdown?
The Covid-19 pandemic has unleashed its wrath and has created many holes in human life’s economic, socio-developmental dynamics.
As children were one of the most affected, we asked what can we all do to support them? From the evidence, albeit novel, we discovered the following were accurate methods of helping our children come out of the pandemic as healthy and emotionally well as possible.
We can help them by:
- creating a healthy environment
- practising healthy communication
- building strong coping mechanisms
- leading by example- showing them how you cope with the pandemic
If you feel your child might need some help how to access mental health services will guide you through the available resources.
Our children, young and older had lockdown take away their freedom, their independence and their routine-in fact, the pandemic stole a full year out of their lives, and that’s a year they won’t get back. However, it is a story to tell their grandchildren in years ahead- the year we all stayed home to save our grandparents. A truly heroic and selfless act but no doubt an act that sadly will leave a mark on so many’s mental health.
The vaccination programme is being rolled out nationally and appears successful to date. So, we can remain optimistic that our children will learn resilience, patience and strength from this disastrous year passed. Understanding what they have missed out on, how afraid they may have been and how the pandemic affected their young lives will help us empathise with them and guide them to brighter days ahead.
Do not feel alone if you are a parent of a child struggling or if, in fact, you are an older child reading this – there is always a way out, a brighter day ahead and it almost always starts with talking. So talk to someone you trust today as communication really can help you on your journey to finding the ‘old you’ again.
This too will pass…
Organisations that can help
- Young Minds
- Contact a Family
- Family Lives
- Penumbra (Scotland)
- CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)
- PAPYRUS (Prevention of Young Suicide)
- Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition (CYPMHC)