Updated: Feb 12
COVID has taken its toll on children, not just physically but emotionally and socially.
The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted our lives big and small. Our work, social lives, family hangouts, school schedules, and even day care routines have been adapted to protect others during this novel time. While most of the focus is towards the physical protection of the elderly, children may see significant long term affects as well.
How exactly has the coronavirus affected elementary school kids? Psychologists, teachers, and parents alike have witnessed a great impact on the emotional and social wellbeing of children ages 6 to 12. Kids are most impressionable at these ages, and they are able to learn quickly and adapt far more easily than middle school and high school kids. While kids can adapt, there remains the potential for mental, emotional and physical strain.
Kids are now acclimated to living in the pandemic. They wear their masks, stand 6 feet apart, and have learned to keep social protocol at school. However although necessary, these rules can be socially wearing. Kids need to be able to play, communicate, and spend time with their peers and teachers. It can be challenging to create safe social spaces for kids to interact; and although there are more strides being taken now more than ever, the effects of social isolation have taken a toll on American kids.
According to a study published in the Wall Street Journal, psychologists have seen a rise in depression and anxiety among elementary school children when social isolation reached a peak last year. Along with the separation from their peers, children experience stresses at home, periods of economic unrest, and changing school and lifestyle routines. At the root of all these anxieties, is the stress of contracting the contagious virus from school. All these contributing factors have created unrest for elementary school children.
Here is what parents and teachers can do to make kids feel safe during COVID-19:
Try and keep a regular routine. With so much uncertainty in the pandemic, it is healthy to maintain a steady routine. Routines are very effective at maintaining order in your house, and they also add purpose to every hour of your day. So much of our world is out of control and it is healthy to have a part of your life that is organized. Kids thrive in scheduled activities, play time, and school. Adding a routine to your everyday will help keep emotional health in line.
Help kids connect with one another. The loss of social connection is one of the biggest obstacles to emotional and social health for kids. We may not always know the comfort level of every family when organizing in-person play dates. Afterall, maybe one mom is okay with a masked in-person play date but another dad may only be comfortable with online connection. So how can we encourage social interaction and keep it safe for kids and families? In the modern tech world, Skype, Facetime, and Zoom are excellent ways to keep kids connected to their peers. Many software developers have created online games that are compatible with these apps for children to use. While online interaction isn’t necessarily preferable, it is an excellent way to keep kids and families safe during the work and school day. However, If all parties involved are okay with in-person interaction, parents can take steps to ensure the safety of their kids by providing them with masks and sanitizer during play time.
COVID-19 continues to impact our families and our children in novel ways. We must learn how to adapt in these challenging times while still fostering a safe space for our kids to grow and maintain healthy emotional and social wellbeing. Creating a bit of normal in this crazy time can encourage the health in your family and community.