Imagining your child to be anything other than happy is a daunting and terrifying notion for every parent. However, during the pandemic and its aftermath, this will have become a reality for most in one form or another. This blog will explore the effects of the pandemic on children’s mental health.
“In February 2021, Radio 4’s File on 4 programme explored the number of children aged nine to 12 admitted to hospital having hurt themselves intentionally. It tragically rose from 221 in 2013-14 to 508 in 2019-20. This data follows the 3 national lockdowns that will have taken a toll on everybody’s mental health, at smaller and more pressing levels, at some point over the last 18 month.”
So, in what ways has the pandemic been especially harmful and traumatising for our young minds? How can you identify this as a parent and when is the right time to seek additional support?
The Effects of The Pandemic on Children’s Mental Health
Disruption of routine and socialising
The closure of schools forced children to become isolated from friends and extended family members in a very unfamiliar way. Because of this, children have been forced to experience a major disruption to their lives. This can potentially be hampering the development of social skills. Alongside subjecting them to a lack of stimulation. Some may have experienced this by feeling extreme loneliness for the first time. This emotion that can be incredibly confusing and distressing for a younger child.
What’s more, the necessary altercations to delivery of education means children haven’t been experiencing the level of engagement they’re used to in a school setting. Any parents that have dealt with the task of home-teacher will have witnessed first-hand the taxing and tiring hours are taken up by streamed classes. This provided children with an unfamiliar learning setting. Some children may have especially struggled to adapt to this new method of teaching. Not forgetting the shift in dynamics from a parent/child relationship to a teaching parent/child relationship. In some children, these frustrations may have presented themselves in uncharacteristic behavioural issues or mood changes.
Restrictions of usual activities or lack of routine may have caused children to become more lethargic. Or on the other hand, more hyperactive in response to a lack of social and physical stimulation. This is alongside the breakdown of regular and structured days and weeks. In addition to this, a difficulty to deliver regular physical education may have deprived some children of mood-boosting exercise. Thus, having a negative effect on their mental wellbeing.
It’s no surprise that levels of stress, anxiety, and conflict have risen amongst families during lockdowns. Especially families with financial difficulties, lower incomes or those caring for special needs children and facing new challenges. Children recognise an unsettled atmosphere and, as a result, this bears an effect on their mental wellbeing. Children witnessing frustration or confrontation between parents in a home setting often feel more stress and worry. This can present itself in a manner of ways such as sleeping difficulties. Or changes in behaviour or appetite, or even usual interests.
Misinformation and online hazards
Social media has played an important role in maintaining connections between family and friends. However, more time spent online can mean children are becoming more exposed to exploitation. Not forgetting, cyber-bullying alongside harmful and uncensored content. This can also negatively impact your child’s behaviour. They may withdraw to avoid discussing bullying issues. Or even attempt to mimic harmful content that is easily accessible and highly influential.
There is also a sense of fearmongering that is generated in the media surrounding cleanliness and virus infection rates. Daunting content such as this is easily misinterpreted by children. They cannot fully understand things properly, causing them to become fearful and traumatised. This issue is becoming exacerbated within schools as children have been urged to avoid contact. They’ve also been asked to excessively wash their hands, and use hand sanitiser.
When to seek help from your therapist or GP
I recently had a client come to me with her nine-year-old son. He had begun obsessively washing his hands till they were cracked and sore. This progressed so that he then became scared to eat with his fingers, causing him to lose weight. All this was due to a fear of germs. This was reinforced by what he had learned at school about the dangers of spreading germs.
I have been giving him ongoing sessions addressing his fears, noticing a decline in his anxiety surrounding germs. His mother has since seen an improvement at home and at school. However, as a parent during the pandemic, this was an extremely troubling and terrifying situation for my client. Thankfully, things have massively improved for my client and her son now. He is worrying far less about it all. Now equipped with valuable techniques to manage his fears.
Does your child need help?
Have you noticed any changes in your child that are beginning to worry you? Do not hesitate to get in touch with a health care professional to discuss help. I always say to parents that are worried they are overreacting with their concerns: TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS AS A PARENT, ASK FOR HELP! One thing that has become extremely frustrating during the pandemic is NHS waiting lists. This is causing further worry for distressed parents seeking help for their children.
Are you concerned about the psychological effects of lockdown and the pandemic on your child? Are you just exploring what may be the best route to take? Do not hesitate to contact me on +44 7928154054 or through my website. I can help you determine the ways in which your child’s difficulties can be addressed. As well as tailor sessions to your child’s specific needs. This way, you and your child will begin to see results and a positive change in your child and your home life. I hope this blog has helped you to see the effects of the pandemic on children’s mental health.
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