The Wellbeing of Children and Adolescents During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Emotional

Children’s worlds have shifted considerably in the past few months. Suddenly they are dealing with school and child care closures, being quarantined at home, not being able to see their friends, losing their routine, and changing family dynamics as parents begin to define what their new “work-life balance” looks like. Children are also struggling with insecurity and stress, just like their parents, friends, and caregivers are. Even babies can pick up on the emotions of others. 

  • Recognize that every child will react to times of stress and uncertainty differently. Some might become angry and outspoken, while others will withdraw or become clingy. 
  • If you are unable to provide the responsiveness that your child needs, don’t be ashamed to reach out to a friend, relative, or professional who can help you address your kid’s needs. 
  • Help children stay connected to the people that they care about by writing letters or participating in online video chats. It’s fine to go outside and say hello to neighbors and people walking by, as long as you stay six feet away. 
  • Try to keep the talk about the pandemic at a kid-friendly level when they are within earshot. If it is enough to cause extreme stress for adults, imagine what it’s doing to the children. Check out BrainPOP’s coronavirus video for kids
  • Try to set a schedule. Children generally thrive on routine, so setting timers and creating structure can make kids feel much safer in uncertain times. 
  • Brainstorm creative ways to keep kids busy to prevent boredom, which can lead to worry and behavioral problems. Having a goal or theme for the week can help develop activities that will keep children busy. Check out these resources for ideas:
  • Put a positive spin on social distancing by focusing on family time. Playing a game together, having a picnic (either outside or in), or dancing together are just a few ideas for enjoying your time together. 
  • State things that you are grateful for every day and encourage your child to do the same. 
  • Encourage a regular sleep schedule for everyone in the house. 
  • Teach young children coping skills such as breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques. 
  • Remind your child that they can help control the spread of coronavirus by washing their hands well, sneezing into their elbow or a tissue, and wearing a mask when appropriate. A sense of control decreases anxiety for children and adults alike. 

Physical

  • Infants need 30 minutes a day of tummy time spread throughout the day, as well as opportunities for activities such as pushing, reaching, crawling, and sitting up. 
  • Tots between the ages of one and two need 180 minutes of physical activity a day, and everyday play activities such as playing in a sandbox or playing with a family pet counts. 
  • Preschoolers can help with household chores such as gardening or using a handheld vacuum to pick up crumbs to reach their goal of 60 minutes a day.
  •  According to WHO, 6-17-year-olds need 60 minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily. 
  • Dance and active video gaming work well for children of all ages. 
  • Consider setting limits on screen time and using a timer to make sure that kids get up and move around every 30 minutes. Just doing 3-4 minutes of light-intensity physical activity such as walking or stretching will help keep your muscles and joints healthy and improves blood circulation. 
  • Remind everyone in the family that physical activity doesn’t just keep the body healthy; it helps us think better and feel better emotionally
  • Set up a family challenge, such as who can do the most jumping jacks in a day or take the most steps. 
  • Make physical activity fun with water balloon fights, hide and go seek, create an indoor or outdoor treasure hunt, or set up a backyard obstacle course. 
  • Remember not to share things like balls, bats, jump ropes, or bicycles with people outside of the family. 
  • These free resources will help keep kids in tip-top shape during this challenging time:

Mental

Sadly, it has been projected that students are likely to return to school this fall, with approximately 63-68% of the learning gains in reading than a typical school year and 37-50% of the learning gains in math. This means that parents and teachers are going to have to help children play catch-up. Even if your kids are heading back to in-person school this fall, parents need to be prepared for the possibility of repeated shutdowns, closures, or quarantines when children, teachers, and staff test positive for Covid-19. 

  • Preschool-age children need social connection more than education at this time. Many preschools are offering virtual get-togethers right now, and social networks or text chains might be used to keep the lines of communication open. 
  • Create a schedule for your child’s academic learning if they will be going to school remotely. Be sure to schedule lunch, recess, and breaks! 
  • It’s been suggested that children younger than fifth grade will need between four and six hours of parental assistance each day when they are learning remotely. Older children should be expected to require one to three hours of supervision daily. 
  • When possible, give your child choices on what order they complete assignments. 
  • Consider setting up a reward system for the completion of schoolwork or good behavior. 

The following are some exciting and innovative educational opportunities available to children and adolescents: