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The Mental Health Impact on Children, During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic

Updated: Jun 4

As a global community, we are facing a very surreal and new situation with the outbreak of a pandemic. As Covid-19 has not been around for an extended amount of time, we are still to witness the long term effects which it will have, especially on children.

While children seem to be less vulnerable to the physical effects of the virus, they are still impacted psychologically. Companionship is essential for children's' normal psychological development and well-being. Separation from primary caregivers pushes children into a state of crisis and this increases the risk of developing psychological disorders. "Sprang and colleagues reported that children who were isolated were more likely to develop acute stress disorder, adjustment disorder and grief. 30% of children who were isolated and quarantined met the clinical criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder" (Source 1). Separation from parents or parental loss during childhood also has long-term adverse effects on mental health. The age at which the separation or loss occurs is known to be relevant to the psychological impact which it will have on development. Some common psychological and behavioural problems identified were:

  • clinginess

  • irritability

  • easily distracted and inattention

  • fear of asking questions about the pandemic and the health of relatives

  • poor sleep patterns

  • nightmares

  • poor appetite

  • physical discomfort

  • agitation

Understanding children's reactions and emotions are essential to adequately address their needs.

Ways to Better Support Children During a Pandemic

  • Ensure improved communication with children to address fears and concerns which they may have

  • Playing collaborative games to alleviate loneliness

  • Frequent physical contact with primary caregivers

  • Maintain contact with parent, friends and family via technology such as Skype or Whatsapp video call

  • Prevent increased sleeping time during the day

  • Music therapy in the form of singing

  • Fun and creative activities such as a picnic in the garden, baking cupcakes, painting or beading.

  • Make use of sleep relaxation methods

  • Model a positive attitude to reduce stress and to divert attention to more productive and positive directions

  • Exercise is key to reducing stress and it bolsters mood

  • Guide children to establish a regular activity schedule. Routine is very important to maintain a sense of normalcy

  • Provide a night light

  • Ensure good nutrition

  • Provide children with access to information about the virus in the form of comic books, videos etc.

  • Educate key role players in how to detect early warnings signs of mental health problems in children

  • Timely referral to professionals for counselling

  • Post-pandemic surveillance of mental disorders is crucial.

Source 1: Mental Health Considerations for Children Quarantined because of Covid-19

Date Published: 27 March 2020

Source 2: Behavioural and Emotional Disorders in Children during the Covid-19 Epidemic

Date Published: June 2020

Photo: Thanks to Bermix Studio for photo on Unsplash.


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