Being stuck inside during lockdown’s impact on children’s mental health
Lockdown is not an easy situation for any of us. However, the physical isolation plus the increase in anxiety over the future, both long and short term, can be particularly difficult for children to manage. One recent study identified that lockdowns have had an especially negative impact on child mental health due to the loneliness and depression that can result from being isolated in this way. Another survey found that around 70% of the children interviewed were experiencing feelings of being overwhelmed, sad and worried by current events.
Parents are concerned
The impact of lockdown on children isn’t just being revealed by statistics – parents too are worried. Many have noticed that their children are struggling with mental health issues since the start of the pandemic. Others have had to deal with challenging behaviour that has resulted from the lifestyle restrictions that have been put in place. Children are not only frustrated by not being able to see friends and go outside but also experiencing fear about the virus itself and how it may make them or their loved ones sick. In some children this has triggered sadness and withdrawal and in others resentment and defiance. Teenagers, in particular, seem to be struggling. Feelings of helplessness and depression are becoming more common, as well as a loss of hope over the future, problems with emotional regulation and loss of motivation.
What can we do?
- Supporting emotional wellbeing. While all families may be undergoing challenges right now research has identified that low income families are particularly likely to have children struggling with anger issues, fear, loneliness or sadness. Whether wealthy or not, being able to recognise how a child is feeling and give them space to work through what’s happening is important for parents today. That might be something as simple as talking at home or asking for a referral to a mental health professional through a doctor. Often, it’s helpful for children to have someone outside the family to talk to, especially if everyone else in the home is tense.
- Physical wellness. Exercise can be a great form of release where stress is concerned and is a mood booster too. Getting your family moving could be essential to ensuring they stay physically and mentally healthy. Walking, cycling, yoga and activities such as football can all help to improve physical wellness.
- Making room for feelings. Journaling is a very effective way for anyone of any age to start connecting with their own feelings. Encouraging children to journal improves self awareness and provides an opportunity to take a pause before acting on anything that feels difficult.
- Finding sources of joy. Even though lockdown is difficult there are still moments to be grateful for. Music, films, creativity such as painting or connecting digitally with friends can all create the pockets of joy that get us through.
Lockdown could be something that we continue to experience periodically for some time and it’s important that we find ways to support each other. Especially key is providing children with the tools to help cope with the impact that the situation is having on mental health.
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