A new study from the CDC shows the sad reality of childhood during COVID-19 Lockdowns. The pandemic has forced unprecedented measures on communities around the globe. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the lives of children who are grappling with school closures, social distancing, and even self-isolation.
While there are certainly some benefits to these new realities for kids (for example, more time to play and read), the emotional toll of COVID-19 cannot be overestimated, with anxiety and depression on the rise among youngsters, adults must provide the necessary support to help them feel safe.
The study from the CDC found that during the lockdowns, 44 percent of children were 'sad and hopeless,' while 19 percent contemplated suicide. These extremely high rates of emotional distress among children during states of lockdown are deeply alarming. The trauma that children are experiencing as a result of the pandemic is very real and could have long-term consequences. Kids need to know that they are not alone and that there are adults who care about them and validate their emotions.
So how can you help them cope when they're feeling the impacts of isolation?
Let them talk about their feelings.
It can be difficult for kids to express what they feel when they're anxious or depressed, so it's essential to be patient and let them talk in their own time. Ask open-ended questions and let them know that it's okay to feel scared or sad. Listening is one of the most important things you can do for a struggling child. It can also be helpful to talk to your children about feelings in general. Doing this will help them feel more comfortable talking about their own feelings, and it'll help them understand the feelings of others.
Always encourage them to express their feelings in healthy ways.
Encourage them to play and be active.
Physical activity can help boost mood and alleviate some of the stress caused by COVID-19. Encourage your child to get outside and play or even just take a walk around can also be helpful. Isolation isn't easy for anyone, and the best way to stay positive is to stay active. Most gyms were closed during the pandemic, which helped virtual classes explode. You can take classes with instructors on everything from yoga to karate to hiking classes. So if getting outside is still an issue, try having your child or teen sign up for something virtual, this way, they're able to be active indoors and still find a way to be social. Other ways to help them stay active include:
- - Going on scavenger hunts throughout the neighborhood or the house.
- - Schedule daily activities, so they have something to forward to.
- - Encourage "Imaginative play" to help limit screen time.
Help them set up hangout sessions via zoom.
The report found that more than 45 percent of students felt they were experiencing poor mental health from being disconnected from friends. If they're unable to physically hang out with friends, always encourage a virtual hangout session via zoom. It's a great way for kids and teens to still feel connected. The CDC study found that 25 percent of the students reported that they contemplated suicide because they felt they had lost that connection with friends. In some instances, the students went through with their consideration as the study did show that nine percent of the students attempted suicide during the lockdown.
If your child or teen seems really bummed from not being able to see their friends and a virtual session just isn't doing anything for them, encourage them to be social in the community. Helping make gifts or cards for your local senior center might feel like a reward to your child for doing a good deed. We're sure you have neighbors who would love some extra help with yard work.
Promote positive language at home.
Children already have enough to deal with, so adding insults and emotional abuse just weighs them down even more. A recent study reported that the majority of the teens were emotionally abused during the pandemic. Children who experience forms of emotional abuse are far more likely to develop issues like depression, anxiety, and PTSD and will consider suicide. When feelings or emotions are heightened in the home, remember to breathe and remain calm. Negative language causes too much stress for you and your children, which neither of you needs. Just remember that positive reinforcement creates a positive culture within the house environment and will improve everyone's mental health.
There are so many ways to help your children cope with isolation and even heal in the aftermath. Another positive action is to help your child find purpose again. They thrive on doing or enjoying things they truly value. Find out if you don't already know what your child's favorite hobby is. If it's reading, start your own book club together or ask them to have daily discussions with you regarding literature. If it's making music, then put on some jams and have an impromptu dance party in the kitchen. The sky is the limit when it comes to making efforts that benefit your child's mental wellness.
While the pandemic has started to diminish, there's always a possibility of lockdown measures returning if another outbreak rises. Children and teens will certainly continue to struggle, and it's important to remember the vital role parents play in providing support. Always acknowledge what they're experiencing and do your best to add those extra layers of support they desperately need. After all, they are losing out on milestones, rites of passage like prom and graduation. Kids just feel like they are missing out on some of the most important moments of their lives.
Ultimately the best thing you can do for your children during and after isolation is just there for them. Be ready to drop what you're doing when they need to talk or need a shoulder to cry on. You've already been through the trenches of being a kid and navigating through your teen years. You know how hard it can be. They will appreciate the effort you gave to make sure they didn't slip through the cracks during one of the most challenging obstacles they have faced thus far.