Children in a global pandemic: what are the consequences?

In order to protect the psychological wellbeing, each one of us needs to be in control. A single critical event is enough to disrupt our balance, but instead of a single event we have to deal with a global emergency such as the one of Covid-19, it has shown that it is impossible for us to be in control of our own lives, which have drastically changed due to the many restrictions in place. The pandemic has had severe consequences on our capacity to communicate and interact with others, on our self-control and on our mental health. Collective critical events (as a global pandemic) can cause different types and degrees of trauma, and as a consequence, this leaves different types of victims with different needs. There is no exact rule regarding how to assist the victims of the traumas caused by the Covid-19 and we will be able to fully assess the entity of such traumas only at the end of the pandemic. Nevertheless, we need to develop a plan and handle this mental health crisis.

In particular, we need to focus on the wellbeing of children. Although they are not fully aware of what is going on, they are able to feel that something is wrong, they are heavily impacted by stress and anxiety felt by their parents. They need a strong support base and constant attention, they demand protection and comprehension and chiefly they need to feel safe, at least in the domestic environment.

Sandra Zampa, The Undersecretary of Health in Italy, assessed that the pandemic caused a serious disruption in the daily life of children. She said that children are penalized by the restrictions, the impossibility to normally play with their friends, the imposition of wearing their masks during their 8 hour long classes. The prohibition of doing sports has highly affected the physical sphere as well as the social skills of children, as now, they are only able to find normality in their homes. Many children are experiencing insomnia, nightmares and behavioural disorders; often linked to their parents’ feelings and problems.

It is evident that parents play an important role in reducing these effects as much as possible, but it is not easy.

Federica, mother of an 8 years old child, told me about the struggles she had been facing during the lockdown. She has been completely drained and has found it hard to reassure her son about the situation. She’s not only a mother but she is also a teacher, a friend and a playground friend. Her son has always been a quiet, calm and not a very outgoing kid, so he was able to manage well with the loneliness caused by the virus; but this doesn’t mean that it didn’t have its ramifications. When asked about that, Federica told me that she was shocked by how familiar her son has become with the theme of death, something that he feels so close to now and a subject in which he speaks on often.

Nonetheless, parents cannot deal with this by themselves, the role of teachers is fundamental in supporting minors.

They are vital figures that, thanks to the daily contact with the students, have the possibility to check on them, having the possibility to identify any arising issues, listen to their concerns and comfort them, by providing them a safe space where they can express themselves to be heard and understood.

There are also other channels and fields that can be used to help children process and understand what is happening. By talking with Federica, I got to know that some kids TV channels had the idea to create ad hoc commercials for children. During them, the most famous and beloved cartoon characters briefly lectured the children through songs and short dialogues about the importance of wearing a face mask, social distancing and washing their hands. Her son knows the song by heart and sings it often while washing his hands.

In conclusion, even if children seem as if they are not  suffering  because of the pandemic, they are suffering just as everyone else is. It is important to support them and to be attentive in catching signals of possible issues, with the aim of protecting them and making sure they never feel  lost and lonely.

Arianna Maviglia

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