By John Lough
American Counseling Association
Most schools closed in mid-spring. Playgrounds in many areas are taped off. Sports programs from baseball to swim meets are being canceled. The current COVID-19 crisis and its quarantining measures are directly affecting our children every day in a variety of ways.
Many parents worry what the long-term effects may be on our kids. It’s a question for which there aren’t a lot of ready answers, but the consensus from numerous experts is that most kids will be all right.
This is especially true for younger children. While they may now complain when locked down at home that they’re “bored,” it’s probably the same complaint voiced during every summer’s school vacation.
Being bored at times won’t harm a child’s psychological and emotional development, but, rather, it does offer opportunities for parents to help build self-sufficiency. Providing kids with additional ways to express their creativity and enhance learning is one approach, but sometimes simply leaving a child to develop his or her own answers to being alone can encourage a child’s independence and ability to create his or her own activities. Parents can empathize with a child’s unhappiness with the current situation, but they don’t need to be a constant playmate or sources of entertainment.
With pre-teens and teenagers the problems can sometimes be more difficult. Social interaction is extremely important to these age groups and the disappearance of classrooms and the freedom to just hang out with friends often are more serious issues than simply being bored. Additionally, older children are better able to understand the health and societal problems this health crisis has brought, which can mean higher levels of anxiety and stress as they worry not only about their own health, but that of others close to them.
Allowing fewer restrictions on electronic interactions is one way for today’s pre-teens and teens to stay connected. Social media and cellphone chat times can be replacements for that face-to-face time the kids previously enjoyed.
But parents also need to watch for any serious problems that today’s changed world can bring to their kids. Significant changes in eating and sleeping habits, being overly argumentative, or withdrawing from family and friends for extended time periods can all be signs of depression. Depression isn’t simply being sad, but it’s a serious, longer-term mental health issue which is treatable and for which medical and mental help should be sought.
“Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association (ACA). Send your comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.