Were children affected by Covid-19?
Updated: Oct 11, 2021
The pandemic has changed everyone's lives in dramatic ways. Since 2020, most of us have deal with the illness or death of a loved one, financial constraints, movement restrictions, lockdowns and so on. Everyone has been affected by this crisis, yet there is a group of people whose needs have rarely been considered. Of course, we are talking about the younger members of our families, our children.
Have we taken a moment to consider how lockdowns have affected our children, nieces, or nephews? Have we considered the challenges of not playing with friends as a kid? While it is true that children spend most of their time playing or chatting with friends than watching global news, they DO HAVE SUFFERED this pandemic too. In this post, we will explore some of the effects lockdowns have had on children' social, cognitive, and psychological wellbeing.
Social Impact: Isolation
Going to school is much more than doing math exercises, spending all night studying for an exam, or attending boring classes. Schools are where most of us learn about friendship, relationships, managing conflicts, negotiating, taking risks. It is the place where we learn social skills, establish new relationships, and expand our self-concept and self-esteem.
When Covid-19 hit our world, many children were required to continue their studies at home. Probably for us, it was a relief to know that our children were going to be able to continue their education. However, for children, school closures meant no more games in the school's yard, no more hanging out with the soccer team, no more watching the classmate they liked. In short, no more fundamental human connection or socializing.
The pandemic has triggered feelings of isolation and a loss of connection with peers, friends, and helpful teachers for many children. Unfortunately, not every child has had the opportunity to engage in remote study or maintain contact with their circle of friends due to their family's financial constraints.
Cognitive Impact: Increased Barriers to Learning
According to UNICEF, "At least one in three of the world's schoolchildren – 463 million children globally – were unable to access remote learning when COVID-19 shuttered their schools."
School closures have significantly affected children's learning process. This is because the child's brain needs to feel safe, calm, and secure to attain new information. Otherwise, the brain will focus solely on other external factors (i.e., yelling, distractions, noises) and not on learning new material.
When lockdowns were enforced, many homes did not have the space nor the resources to accommodate the needs of every household member. As a result, many families had to negotiate using computers, Wi-fi connections, rooms, desks, and chairs, to complete their school or work projects on time. This situation created additional barriers for children who were already struggling in school, as they not only had to focus on their assignments but having the means and space to study.
On top of that, schools offer resources that, unfortunately, our homes do not have, such as after-school programs, teacher's aides, counselling, sports coaches, among others. These resources and professionals are essential to help our children to keep up with their education. Unfortunately, lockdowns not only created more barriers for children but also deprived them of this additional support.
Psychological Impact: Anxiety, Depression, and Bereavement
Children and young people have had a hard time coping with lockdowns. In a survey conducted by the organization Young Minds, about how young people experienced UK's January lockdown, 67% of the participants (ages 13-25) answered that "the pandemic will have a long-term negative effect on their mental health." Most of the young people interviewed reported that the main stressors caused by lockdowns were the following:
Sense of loneliness
Worries about their schoolwork
Not being able to do the activities they used to do, and
Worries about friends or family getting Covid.
These stressors have increased children's levels of anxiety and depressive-related symptoms. Unfortunately, not every child has had the support they need from their family, teachers, or school to manage these adversities. In addition, some of them have also lost people they loved without receiving face-to-face support due to movement restrictions
When our need to connect with others cannot be satisfied, we seek other unhealthy ways to fill that gap. As parents, teachers, and adults, it is essential that we do not forget to care for the younger people in our homes throughout this challenging time. They, too, need to be heard, nurtured and loved. So, listen to your child's needs and let them know that you are there for them.