How has the pandemic affected children’s development in any way?
Missing normal developmental opportunities has been the universal experience for children affected by the pandemic. Young people learn best when they have the support of caring adults. They can also enjoy time with many peers, and engage in interesting and new experiences. Children and adolescents lost everything else in the pandemic. Their lives became narrower and more personal. While this may have protected them from COVID-19 it robbed them of the diversity and complexity that is an essential part of development.
How has the pandemic affected children’s social skills?
Children are not practicing social skills. They learn to get along with others by spending time with them, making friends and being around people they don’t choose to be with. Children and adults learn better with practice. We are seeing some signs of developmental lag in certain children’s social skills. It is normal, but this can be corrected.
It is important to communicate clearly with your children how you expect them to deal with the difficulties they face. You can, for example, tell a child who grabs a toy from another kid that you are happy to give it to them. Here’s how to handle it: You say “When you’re done with that, can I have a turn ?'”..” You shouldn’t be frustrated that children don’t always know the best ways to interact with others. It is unrealistic to expect them to figure it all out on their own. It may be necessary to give children more instruction and coaching than we have provided in the past.
How has the pandemic affected children’s mental health and wellbeing?
The pandemic caused great distress for families and children. Children feel very upset, anxious, or even angry at what they have been through. Children who are more emotionally fragile than normal will be what we see in the near term. Children can be helped by us being patient, helping them express their feelings or finding other ways, such as art, to help them feel better.
Mental health is important. I believe it is best to avoid confusing psychological distress with mental illness. Everyone felt distress from the pandemic. In fact, it was a normal response to the events. If the child cannot manage these feelings in a way that is adaptive, helps them feel better, and does no harm, then we are concerned about a mental health issue.
Children are feeling the right emotions when they feel sad about what they have missed. Children are able to express their feelings through tears and seek comfort from caring adults. However, if a child feels sad or unable to accept help, is doing harm to others, or is so depressed that it interferes with their ability to feel happy or hopeful, we will treat this as a mental health issue and ensure that they receive the support that they need.
What can parents do if their child reacts to difficult feelings?
The first thing you should do when someone is suffering is to validate it. You are experiencing the right feelings at the right moment. You’ve been through this difficult period in history.
Next, you need to distinguish between the feeling and its expression. You can tell us that you are upset but our way of expressing it – be unkind to others, or unable to get up – is causing you harm. We need to help you find ways to relieve this feeling.