The Pandemic Is Stealing Joy From Our Children
In the past year, the pandemic has taken its toll on so many of us. From social isolation to financial hardships, the world has become stressful, and anxiety-ridden for many. Even though we can logically understand what is going on around us, it is still difficult to cope with. For the little ones in our lives and community, it’s a whole different story.
Children develop emotionally and socially at a rapid rate, especially in the first five years of life. Positive social and emotional development is important. This development influences a child’s self-confidence, empathy, the ability to develop meaningful and lasting friendships and partnerships, and a sense of importance and value to those around him/her.
When looking at the emotional and social development of children during the pandemic, studies are showing that the pandemic is having a greater impact on them in comparison to adults. The one thing that has stood out to me is the lack of interpersonal communication. In our daily lives, nonverbal communication makes up for 93% of how we interact with others. As we are all aware, facial expressions play a large part in that. So how can children develop socially when our facial expressions are hidden behind masks?
I have noticed with my grandchildren, especially toddlers, that they are more withdrawn and anxious when out in public. Even with me. How can they react to us when we are all covered in masks? With my preschool and elementary-aged grandchildren, it is a little better. After all, a lot of their social and emotional development began pre-pandemic.
We need to also consider how social distancing is affecting kids. While they are getting social interactions within their family at home, social distancing is affecting. The practice of social distancing is affecting those in late childhood and adolescents more profoundly. In late childhood and adolescence, children start to strike out on their own. The question is, how are they supposed to form relationships and the skills needed to keep them going when there is such little interaction with others?
Aside from the social effects, this pandemic is having on children, one must consider the emotional toll it is having on them. Everything around them is inundated with news of the pandemic. The death tolls, financial problems, and fear of losing those closest to them.
It is no surprise that the levels of anxiety and depression are higher among children. By September 2020, 84% of 11-17-year-olds scored for moderate to severe anxiety, while 90% scored for moderate to severe depression. It isn’t just this age group that is suffering. Kids of all ages, including toddlers are being affected. In older children, suicide is skyrocketing.
I know parents are overwhelmed by the changes in their life. Working from home and homeschooling has become the new norm for most families. Parents are struggling to keep it all together. Adding the worry of the changes in their child’s mental health can be cumbersome. More needs to be done to help families cope with the emotional effects on their children. I see how overwhelming it is for my adult children and their families. Something more needs to be done. It has been great that so much emphasis has been placed on putting a homeschool plan together, but what about including counseling in the curriculum? Why not include a weekly group therapy session for school-aged kids? There is so much we as a society can do to help heal our future generations, and give them the peace of mind they desperately need.
Featured image by Myriams-Fotos, courtesy of Pixabay