We need to understand that children are particularly susceptible to the emotional and psychological impact of COVID-19 due to their desire for security and comfort. Their inability to fully comprehend what has been taking place all across the world is also another issue. Given their need for security and comfort in the world, their difficulty in understanding the actual impact of what a health pandemic entails is also an additional issue.


You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. – Maya Angelou

Pandemic!

That word evokes fear, trepidation and a lot of anxiety. The COVID-19 pandemic has spread over 210 nations across the globe in the last five months. As we read the news daily for updates about cases and slowing the spread of its transmission, I am always left wondering: What about the effects of the pandemic on children?

Health professionals have stated that COVID-19 is less prevalent and critical in children and adolescents, yet they are seriously impacted by the disruptions it is occassioning to “normal” lives, the separation from family members, social distancing, quarantines, lockdowns, school closures, illness among family members (if any), and all the additional stress that has been accruing during this period.

We need to understand that children are particularly susceptible to the emotional and psychological impact of COVID-19 due to their desire for security and comfort. Their inability to fully comprehend what has been taking place all across the world is also another issue. Given their need for security and comfort in the world, their difficulty in understanding the actual impact of what a health pandemic entails is also an additional issue.

At the moment, our medical professionals are stretched thin caring for folks who are ill due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Children are spending a lot more time with their parents, most of whom aren’t well versed in child developmental needs and do not know how to respond to their children’s reactions during this unprecedented period. It would be beneficial to society as a whole to increase the ability to know how to deal with children’s emotional and behavioural reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s so easy to dismiss their emotional needs. This was most apparent to me when I listened to children react to the fact that they would have no physical school until the situation improves, which is an indefinite period of time (some schools in my state, Lagos, Nigeria, have estimated September as the earliest for school resumptions; while other nations say this would be after June).

At the moment, children are learning online or through the radio or television. Comments from children that I have interacted with have been like the following statements: “Learning is boring without my friends.” A lot of the children that I speak to have declared this with a lot of indignation and anxiety. Also, “When will a cure for this coronavirus be found?” From conversations like these, it is obvious that children miss socialising with their peers.

We are keeping children who are healthy and energetic in lockdown situations at home. They hear and see news about the pandemic across the globe. Their parents discuss it with each other or while having conversations over calls to their friends. They listen to their parents ruminate on the increasing possibility of a recession. They have become less physically active and interact less socially with others.

Schools are striving to keep students learning via various mediums, such as the online channels. It is up to parents and guardians to provide structure and discipline to the children, as schools are unable to oversee these at the moment. Underscore that some level of normalcy is observed such as through wearing regular clothes, not keeping late hours…


How do we support our children with their current delicate emotional states?

Be Direct About Discussing Their Feelings About the Pandemic

I have been working with children for over twenty years now and I have to confess that I actually enjoy talking to children more than adults. They can be overwhelming, in terms of the amount of energy that they exude, but beyond that they never fail to astonish me with the depths to which they ponder about the world that they live in. They always make me think. I’ve learnt to never dismiss the emotions and thoughts that children have.

I have equally learnt best from them and have come to realise that it is beneficial for both the children and adults to allow them express their feelings.

We should ignore sweeping statements like: “At least you are safe, there are people dying all over the world”; “You should be happy that you have something to eat, there are hungry people who would wish to be you.”

Just listen to them and don’t worry about always having to proffer solutions to all the questions they pose. Acknowledge the fact that they trusted you enough to share how they feel, and look for something positive that they have been doing in handling the situation, like saying: “I like how you understand that I have zoom meetings or work calls. You help me focus on doing what is important with everything that is going on.”

Emphasise Structure For Children

Schools are striving to keep students learning via various mediums, such as the online channels. It is up to parents and guardians to provide structure and discipline to the children, as schools are unable to oversee these at the moment. Underscore that some level of normalcy is observed such as through wearing regular clothes, not keeping late hours and not spending all of their time on social media. They should pursue some creative endeavours also. Hold them accountable for these. My experience with children is that they need structure to thrive; there should be some flexibility due to recent events but their learning and timetables shouldn’t be allowed to go to total disarray; this leaves them confused.

Touch Them

Children love hugs, kisses and pats on the back. These bodily gestures impart positive, calming effects on their minds. During this period, indulge them more. Find little opportunities to hold them and reassure them. This, in turn, would make them emotionally stronger. What we do during this situation can make or mar them in the upcoming weeks, months and years to come.

We should be mindful of the emotional and mental health of children.

Adetola Salau, Carismalife4U@gmail.com, an advocate of STEM education, public speaker, author, and social entrepreneur, is passionate about education reform.