Are the kids alright? Social isolation can take a toll.
"School closures and lack of access to day care centres and parks may exacerbate children’s feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety."
School is a place where all children can connect socially with their friends. Not being able to do so can lead to feelings of loneliness.We know that some children will experience social isolation more adversely than others and may be psychologically impacted. There are many reasons for this; children differ in their thinking styles, their ability to regulate and control their emotions, and their personality. The level of family support available to the child and how parents behave and interact with child also make a difference to the child’s wellbeing.
Most of the parents since last one year are supporting their children to learn from home. This already substantial challenge was complicated by children not being able to go out and play with other children. Understanding children’s reactions during COVID-19 and this period of social isolation is important to help parents support their children.
What we can do to support children?
As frustrating, boring and painful as social distancing is for kids, it's important to continue taking steps to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This means keeping space between your children and other people outside your household. To help your child deal with loneliness, here are a few suggested ways:
1. Talk to your child(ren)
Speak with children, explain things, and listen to them. Talking through things with children helps them rather than making things worse. Try to make space to talk to them. It is useful to ask open questions and listen, acknowledge their concerns and make them feel heard and supported. Be honest in your explanations and use age appropriate language. Listen out for myths and misinformation when they talk to you about COVID-19 and help them base their knowledge on facts and reliable sources.
2. Encourage spending time with friends
Your child needs to spend quality time with friends to feel connected and supported. And, in fact, your child likely has more free time to do so than usual. The safest way for your child to talk to or play with others during this pandemic is through video calls or phone calls. Older children might enjoy texting or playing online games with friends. This might require temporarily loosening your rules about your child's amount of daily screen time. Just be sure to continue ensuring quality screen time by previewing your child's games, using parental controls when needed and supervising your child's online activities.
3. Stay in touch with family and friends
Set up calls or video chats to allow your child to spend time with extended family and other people important to him or her, to make them feel more connected with their loved ones. Or invite family members or friends to a video chat party.
4. Set a routine, particularly around sleep
Structure and routine are important for psychological wellbeing but remember what that looks like will differ from family to family. Find what works for you. The benefit of structure and routine is that it normalises family life allowing children will know what to expect and when. Carving out set times for activities, be it play, study, or exercise is a good idea and brings a sense of purpose. Regular bed and wake times are particularly important.
5. Talk about feelings
Your child might be sad about missing an important social event, such as a birthday party. Acknowledge your child's loss, ask about his or her feelings, and validate them by showing that you understand. Allow your child to lead the discussion, rather than making assumptions about how he or she thinks and feels. You also might consider giving your child an age-appropriate book that deals with loneliness. This can give your child words to describe his or her feelings. Or have your child write down what it is that he or she misses about certain people, places or events.
6. Seek daily purpose
Spending time doing activities of value can give your child's day structure and purpose. This can help your child cope with the change in his or her routine. Your child might find meaning through reading, creating music, making movies, baking, dressing up, drawing, writing, planting a garden or building something. Encourage your child's unique creativity.
Your child can't control the current need for social distancing. But your child can control how he or she chooses to deal with the circumstances. By encouraging your child to connect with others, share his or her feelings, and find daily purpose, you'll help him or her cope with loneliness due to the pandemic. Working through this challenge also might contribute to your child's personal growth and better prepare him or her to deal with future obstacles.
Educationist | Author | Parent Coach
National President - Elementary Education
W.I.C.C.I. - Women's India Chamber of Commerce and Industry