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It is no secret that COVID-19 has had a big impact on our lives and this is equally true for our children. Research on the impact of COVID-19 on children has so far found impacts on children’s education, nutrition and physical health but what is the emotional impact of COVID-19 on children? This article highlights research on the topic and some tips to support children’s emotions.
Due to COVID-19, face-to-face schooling in Jamaica was halted in March 2020. Online learning has since continued as many attempts to resume face-to-face schooling were disrupted by sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks and clusters all over the island.
Additionally, lockdown measures meant that people had to stay home with gatherings of any kind prohibited. These changes have had a significant emotional impact on both adults and children.
A recent study has shown that the emotional impact of COVID-19 on children was linked to their parent’s emotional regulation and level of playfulness. Children’s emotion was impacted by their exposure to stressors brought on by the pandemic.
It was found that children were more likely to be stressed if they had been exposed to disturbing information about the virus by the media, have had a close friend or family member lose their job because of the pandemic, or were in lockdown.
Children’s emotional reactions were manifested in several ways, including separation fears and clinging; anxiety and fears; excessive crying; nervous, agitated and aggressive behaviours and fear or difficulty sleeping.
The research highlights the emotional impact of COVID-19 on children with potential worrying effects on children’s mental health. This is of particular interest as research shows that children’s mental health affects their learning and overall development.
A positive takeaway from the study is that children were less likely to be stressed from the effects of the pandemic if their parents were able to regulate their own emotions toward the virus.
The study also found that fathers were more likely to be playful with children, so their playfulness mitigated the negative emotional impact of COVID-19.
Tips to reduce the emotional impact of COVID-19 on children
Limit Disturbing Information on COVID-19
When possible, parents should limit children’s exposure to disturbing information about COVID-19 in the media.
Parents should practice self-care and emotional regulation so that they are better able to support their children’s emotional needs. Some self-care tips for parents include meditating, doing things that you enjoy, keeping a journal or taking time to pamper yourself.
Play is important to children’s development. Taking time to play with children is not only fun but it supports their learning and promotes positive feelings about self, others and the environment. Play is a child’s work.
Monitor Children’s Emotions
Parents should monitor their children’s emotions and check for signs of abnormal moods and/or behaviours, such as those mentioned above, and seek help without hesitation.
Support Children’s Emotions
Support children to recognize their emotions and learn appropriate ways to express them. Parents can support children by talking to them about their feelings and teaching them how to label and identify those feelings.