The Mental Health Impact on Children, during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic
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:
easily distracted and inattention
fear of asking questions about the pandemic and the health of relatives
poor sleep patterns
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.