Since the pandemic started early last year, every country worldwide has come up with different safety measures. To fight the spread of the virus, schools switched to online learning, and many families have had to adjust, as a result. As moms, we want to reassure our kids of their safety to make them feel at ease, and feel less nervous or reluctant to go back to school.
The psychological impact of social isolation in children and adolescents related to COVID-19 is significant. According to a study, school closures and prolonged state of social distancing from teachers, peers, and other community networks, results in increased mental health problems in children compared to adults.
The Negative Impact of Social Isolation in Children
Social isolation results in loneliness and a wide range of unhealthy physical and psychological symptoms. The psychological and physical effects of social isolation are overwhelmingly negative, resulting in:
- Elevated cortisol levels. This is the primary stress hormone. High cortisol levels cause an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. Too much cortisol in a child can induce mood changes, cause obesity, disrupt puberty, slow a child’s growth, draw fatigue, and cause a variety of other symptoms.
- Disrupted child’s sleep routine. Your child finds it difficult to wake up in the morning and may fall asleep at school or while doing their homework.
- Anxiety and depression. Children may develop separation anxiety with their parents or develop social anxiety and become afraid of school or places where there are people. Children may occasionally become sad, depressed, feel helpless or hopeless in situations they cannot change.
As a mom, you can help find ways to support your kids’ well-being each day to neutralize the effects of social isolation and help your child get mentally ready for back-to-school season, either online or in-person.
Here are tips to help your kids deal with whatever they may be facing with going back to school and ways to communicate what they will be expecting.
This infographic was created by Kids Car Donations, a car donation organization
1. Have open communication with your kids
Your kids may be reluctant to go back to school, especially when they already get used to learning at home for months. In addition, they may find it difficult to socialize as they need to be physically distanced from friends and teachers while at school.
Parents need to enforce safety measures for the protection of all. We all want to prevent germs from spreading. You can encourage your kids to find another way to bond with their friends and stay connected after school. Remind them to wash their hands as often.
The key is to have a conversation with your kids when they still feel anxious. It is healthy that they talk about their worries or if they are upset about a situation. You just need to reassure them that adults are working hard to keep every family safe and healthy and that it is important that they follow the health protocols to take care of the community.
2. Help your kids to practice self-care
Support your kids in prioritizing self-care by helping them develop and maintain healthy habits other than the protocols provided by the school. For example, promote healthy eating habits, maintain a regular sleep schedule as this helps your kids to perform better at school, and do daily healthy routines that include physical activities and social interactions. In addition, practicing mindfulness, such as breathing exercises and guided relaxations, can help manage your kid’s emotions and stay calm.
3. Tell a scenario-based story
Some kids, especially the young ones, have difficulty understanding what is seriously going on because of their young age. Creating a concise narrative scenario, like those in children’s books that explain what will be different and what will stay the same, can help them better understand what to expect when they return to school.
For example, you can tell them that their friend will also be attending the same school, but they will need to wear a facemask and bring sanitizer because they will use it often. You can also tell them that they will be sitting farther away from their classmates on the bus and in the classroom.
By doing this method, your kids create a scenario in their minds. As a result, they will understand what you are saying and ask you relevant questions.
4. Gently check frequently to see how your kids are coping
Check your kids regularly if they are coping well with the changes at school. It is essential that you are calm and proactive in your conversation with them. Check them regularly about how school is going and how they are doing. Having little talks throughout the day will make it feel like our conversation with them is natural.
Practice active listening. Listen to your kids without interrupting, validate their emotions, and make them feel that they are understood. Kids will find positive ways to express their emotions if you help them express and communicate negative feelings and make them feel that they are in a safe environment.
5. Keep an eye out for signs of stress and anxiety
Stress and anxiety can manifest in many ways, and it helps to know a few common symptoms. But the good news is that you can teach your kids to deal with stress. You need to look out for these signs that may cause stress and impact your kid’s mental health.
- Frequent headaches
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Sleep disturbance
- Rapid heart rate
- Frequent illness
- Excessive worry
- Low energy
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Poor concentration
Bullying can also be the cause of your kid’s stress and anxiety. You need to be alert if you notice your kid has become more upset or withdrawn. You can encourage them to let a trusted adult know that they are being bullied immediately, like their teacher or guidance counselor.
Parents ultimately know their kids. So if you see your kid is not acting normal, it is a sign that something is going on with them, and it is the perfect time to have a conversation with them. Also, don’t hesitate to contact a mental health professional if your teen needs professional support during this challenging time.