Many parents are so concerned with dealing with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in the workplace and at home that they fail to realise that their children may also experience challenges and uncertainty.
We invited local psychologist, Vincent Cloete to share his insight into this matter to enable parents to obtain a better understanding of the ‘new normal’ from a child’s perspective.
According to Cloete, children as individuals will be affected differently, both emotionally and mentally. This is unfamiliar territory for all and the future and ongoing emotional and mental impact is still unknown.
Children that are already dealing with pre-existing psychological conditions are among the most vulnerable to exacerbated mental health concerns.
“For some children, this is going to be traumatic, but how people respond to trauma can range from them being passive and withdrawn to them being angry, irritable, and agitated. There is not going to be any universal response to the pandemic because that’s not how trauma works. The harmful effects of this pandemic will not be distributed equally. It is expected to be most damaging for children in the poorest countries, and in the poorest neighbourhoods, and for those in already disadvantaged or vulnerable situations,” Cloete says.
For older children and teens, you may see physiological changes, such as changes in sleeping patterns or appetite, reduced energy, or increased physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach-aches. Cognitive, or thinking changes, are also common and can include forgetfulness and distraction. However, there are some children that may experience more lasting mental health effects,” Cloete explains.
“First is ensuring physical and emotional safety. This includes ensuring their physical needs are met (food, shelter, healthcare) as well as providing emotional safety by providing accurate information in age-appropriate language.
Second is building and maintaining healthy relationships. This includes building and strengthening connections with supportive adults such as caregivers, family members, teachers, and coaches as well as peers.
Third, supporting and teaching skills for coping and emotion regulation is important to building resilience in the face of this and other stressors. This includes helping children learn how to express emotions in words, engage in positive activities, use relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, access social support, and solve problems,” Cloete concludes.
Story: Barry Viljoen