Pandemic Stress In Children
Protecting Children and Ourselves
We do all we can to protect our children from the Coronavirus pandemic. Social distancing, masks, hand sanitizer and hand washing are good practices to help keep children and ourselves safe. These actions will help keep us safe from the immediate threat of getting COVID-19. Here’s what the CDC is saying about how COVID-19 might effect your child or any family member.
Are we doing all we can to protect children from the stress of the pandemic? Pandemic stress in children is difficult to completely prevent. Children aren’t as prone as their grandparents to get COVID-19 but are just as stressed by it. Children are aware that they have stopped going to school or child care. Children know that their parents are stressed. Changes in schedules, constant media alerts, and parental stress leads to stressed out children. As our anxiety builds so too does theirs. And if, God forbid, there is a loss in the family, how do parents help children through that? What can parents do to relieve some of that stress? Let’s see what the experts say.
Experts Agree Pandemics Are Stressful On Some Children
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, children are almost a quarter of the American population. That’s more than 70 million children. This vulnerable segment of our society demands our protection in times of pandemic. Experts have learned from previous pandemics that children deal with stress differently than adults. Our response has to be modified to meet children’s special needs. “Most kids will ride this out and probably write some interesting college application essays about it.” Says Seth Pollack psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and director of the Child Emotion Lab. Affluent kids will come out on the other side of COVID-19 mostly unscathed. Pollack and others are more concerned for children with less affluent families. Families who are already under stress from poverty and food insecurity are struggling more now.
Special Needs Of Children In Pandemic
From considering the lessons learned from previous pandemics we know that suspending routine activities, social distancing, closing schools and child care centers, will become the expected norm. These precautions among others, save lives in a pandemic. Those same actions can have a detrimental effects on children. Closing schools leaves children whose family don’t have internet access without connections with teachers and classmates.
Closing schools might also leave many children nutritionally vulnerable. Many children across the country depend on school breakfast and lunch programs for their only meals throughout their day. Some children even receive food to take home over the weekend.
Closing child care centers takes many parents out of the workforce for having no one to care for their children. Social distancing is very difficult to implement when working with children, it is impossible when working with infants and toddlers. Children need human contact to survive.
Older children and teenagers can suffer detrimental effects from isolation and may need mental health support in a pandemic. Suspending routine activities is detrimental to children as routine is what allows children thrive. Considering the lessons learned in pandemics of the past is important when planning for pandemics of the future.
Parents And Communities Can Ease Pandemic Stress In Children
There are many activities that parents and even the community can do to ease stress for children and their families. Everything parents do will impact their children in some way. Communities will need to support parents and children in a pandemic.
First, children need their education. Leadership needs to plan an infrastructure that provides children their education even when schools are closed. There are many tools that districts can utilize to continue children’s education from home. Many wireless companies are offering free or discounted WiFi to families with school age children.
Next, social distancing doesn’t support children’s mental health. Isolation is especially difficult on children. Parents will want to build their relationships with their children during a pandemic. Parents can help their children stay in touch with extended family members using face time or other video calling programs. Try to stick closely to the old “before Coronavirus” routine with their children. If that doesn’t work create and stick to a new routine.
Children rely on the simple rhythm to know what to expect next. Children who don’t know what to expect next will likely behave in ways that won’t be helpful. With many schools closed until the fall parents are going to need home schooling support. The CATO Institute offers this advice.
Keeping Children Active And Engaged
TeachPreschool.org has a great site with lots of inspiration to bring fun learning to your house during isolation. The author/preschool teacher, Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. is so warm and encouraging. She is a teacher of preschool teachers.
Experts say exercise will be necessary to keep kids (and adults) active. There are ways to keep active inside the house. Walk At Home is just one way to stay active. Kids can work out with parents.ChildCareInformation.com is dedicated to the safe education of children even in times of global pandemic.