If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the COVID-19 pandemic forced us into a period of change. It has altered nearly every aspect of our lives, from how we live and work to the way we communicate with others. For children, it has also changed the way they learn.
For as long as we can remember, children have been going to school. They sit in a classroom five days a week where they receive instruction from a teacher. At the beginning of the pandemic, this changed. As the schools closed, kids had to adopt a new method of education called distance learning. Distance learning presented many challenges for children. It disrupted their routine, challenged their ability to socialize, and threatened their mental health.
Disruption of routine
Having a routine is important for children. It can give children the sense of stability and security they need, especially during times of uncertainty. A routine can also help them feel more comfortable in their environment. With so much change happening around them, they can take comfort in knowing what will happen next in their day. Having a dedicated time to wake up, learn, and play can provide the structure they need to feel some sense of normalcy.
Unfortunately, when schools closed, kids experienced a disruption in their daily routine.
Less social interaction
In addition to disrupting their routine, children also experienced a change in their social lives. Socialization plays a huge role in our mental health, and children are no different. Not getting much-needed social interaction can have adverse effects on a person’s mental health. It can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can trigger depression and anxiety.
It’s important to note that the length of time spent alone plays a larger role in mental health than the severity of loneliness. The longer social distancing measures are in place, the longer kids spend alone, and the more significant toll it will have on their mental health in the future. One study even suggests that social isolation and loneliness could increase the risk of depression for up to 9 years. Therefore, intervening as early as possible is essential because it may be able to prevent long-term effects.
For most children, school is where they socialize. It’s where they engage with people their age and build relationships. By not going to school, kids are not getting the human interaction they need to thrive.
Signs of distress
Recognizing a child is struggling to deal with changes, like distance learning, can be difficult. Here are a few signs and symptoms that can suggest a child’s mental health is at risk:
- Mood swings
- Withdrawing from relationships
- Lost interest in school or activities they used to enjoy
- Changes in appearance, like a lack of hygiene or weight loss or gain
- Use of drugs or alcohol
- Suicidal thoughts
COVID-19 Affected Parents Too
The COVID-19 pandemic is it is new for everyone. These are unprecedented times. None of us have lived through a pandemic before. In the beginning, it was stressful for everyone. Parents were trying to adjust to the new normal.
They had to explain the public health crisis to their children when they were learning themselves; guide their children through the changes they had not yet gotten used to themselves; comfort their children while experiencing feelings of uncertainty and anxiety themselves.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Affected Everyone
The current public health crisis has affected everyone somehow, but it has had a significant impact on children. If a parent or guardian notices any signs their child’s mental health is affected by the pandemic, they should inform their pediatrician.