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Corona: Mental consequences for children and young people

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 184 views

The coronavirus pandemic has also had a significant impact on the lives and everyday lives of children and young people. Above all, a large part of their social contact options have been lost due to the restrictions – daycare or school, sports club, choir, club visits. In addition, there are stressed and worried, perhaps even irritated, parents who burden the situation.

Children and young people are also often afraid for their parents and grandparents. And although they very rarely get seriously ill with a Sars-CoV-2 infection, some of them also fear for their own health.

All of this puts a great deal of mental strain on children and young people during the pandemic – and this is not without consequences: mental health problems have increased significantly during the pandemic. About 77 percent were more stressed than before during the first and second lockdowns, according to a survey of 1,000 children and young people and their parents. About a third of them reacted with behavioral problems and mental disorders.

Social background also decides on the psychological consequences

Children who grow up in a stable home and receive help from their parents have mostly come through the pandemic well so far.

However, young people from socially disadvantaged families often fared less well: They have fewer opportunities to retreat due to the small apartments. Not all of these children own laptops and similar devices that are necessary for digital learning.

Socially disadvantaged parents are also less able to support their offspring in homeschooling because they usually have jobs that cannot be done in the home office – or they often lack the necessary training. All this means an additional psychological burden for the children and young people affected.

The hardest hit are those minors who are exposed to lovelessness or abuse in lockdown. You have no more options to retreat. Due to a lack of contacts, no one notices the consequences of abuse.

symptoms

What are the psychological effects?

  • Fears : Experts note above all that fears have increased among children and young people.
  • Depressed Mood : If the fears persist, this can progress into a depressed mood, with low mood, withdrawal, and loss of interest and joy.
  • Behavioral disorders : Some children and adolescents react with behavioral disorders such as hyperactivity and aggressiveness.
  • Psychosomatic symptoms : Some offspring show psychosomatic symptoms such as stomach pains or headaches.
  • Eating disorders : In the Corona year, the number of young people being treated for an eating disorder increased.
  • Sleep disorders : Another widespread consequence of mental stress is sleep disorders. Parents observe problems with falling asleep and staying asleep even in the youngest.
  • Weight gain : While not a mental disorder, it can exacerbate existing mental health problems.

It is still unclear whether the corona pandemic will have long-term effects on the general development of children and young people.

causes

Worries, disrupted routines and direct stresses caused by the lockdown, such as problems with distance learning, parents’ money worries and social isolation, create stress and anxiety. Both are the main triggers for psychological complaints and illnesses.

Other reasons for a deterioration in the mental state of children and young people are also of a physical nature – for example poor nutrition and too little exercise. Up to 40 percent of children and young people were no longer physically active during the lockdown because there were no sports clubs or leisure activities.

Tips for coping – what helps?

There are a whole range of factors that help to remain mentally stable in the pandemic. They are good for both children and young people as well as adults.

Structure : Humans are creatures of habit. A life without a routine is equally stressful and paralyzing. Therefore, structure your day and that of your children, especially in Corona times: When do you learn, when do you have free time? When is dinner and when is there a small sports program? And when and for how long are media consumed? Create a plan together with your children.

Exercise : Speaking of a sports program: Exercise is a natural stress killer. Excessive exertion reduces stress hormones. Afterwards, the mood climbed several points on the satisfaction scale. Take family walks, for example. If kids are bored, you can spice it up with games like “I see something you don’t see.”

Relaxation exercises : Where there is relaxation, there is no room for fear. You can also learn to relax – this already applies to kindergarten children. Mindfulness exercises, progressive muscle relaxation or imaginary journeys are child’s play with age-appropriate instructions.

Joint activities : Many families have rediscovered joint activities for themselves during the pandemic. Board games, singing, handicrafts and cooking together are also fun for the little ones. The latter especially when everyone can decide what to put on the table.

Suggestion box hour : You should also schedule time for conversations in which you ask your children how they are doing and what might be particularly bothering them. Think together about what you can do if necessary to make the child feel better again.

Encourage positive thoughts : In the pandemic, there is always bad news. Even the little ones get it – and the big ones even more so. Instead of letting negative feelings get you down too much, you can focus your attention on positive things. For example in an evening ritual: three things that were beautiful that day. Or tell about experiences like the last visit to the zoo, which was so beautiful.

Explain what’s going on : Children know when their parents are concerned – and they are less afraid when they understand why some things are not possible right now. Explain to your child in simple terms why they cannot go to daycare at the moment or why everyone is walking around with a face mask.

Encourage social contacts : Social media and video chats cannot replace real encounters. But they help to bridge the time. Perhaps host family chats with people you rarely see. Encourage your child to keep in touch with friends. It’s also fun to send each other a postcard or a small gift in the same way.

Be a role model : Heed the tips yourself. The more relaxed and confident you deal with the situation yourself, the easier it will be for your children to cope. And then you are also a good role model.

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