Mental health problems associated with ongoing isolation during the coronavirus pandemic are likely to be one of the big issues for children – and their parents.
The long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic on children’s mental health is one of the major parental anxieties. There’s the sense of drift. It feels as if the whole world has stopped and motivation to do just about anything has disappeared, particularly for teenagers.
Some schools have sent ‘helpful’ timetables for keeping on track. They specify getting up at the same hour as pre-Covid, going for a jog and settling down to a full school day. There are clearly some parents and young people who are sticking to this kind of thing, but for many any semblance of a schedule has long been thrown out the window and going for a jog seems a far-fetched fantasy given even getting them to move from the sofa requires superpower levels of persuasion. Trying to wake teenagers up in lockdown is a feat in itself, not helped by having to do so repeatedly in between work calls. The waking-up process can take several hours, depending on the work zoom schedule.
Once up, they clearly need to acclimatise to the day. This can take a good while and by that time it is usually lunchtime [a meal scheduled for any time between 1 and 5pm]. The school day can stretch longer into the evening, of course, but tends to get broken up with Ru Paul’s Drag Race or the news, which has become a major focus of teen life in a way it never was before.
While motivation when it comes to school work is low, the Future seems a gaping hole of uncertainty and lack of productivity is causing feelings of being overwhelmed as they worry that they will never catch up, there is a sense of empowerment on the politics front, with many inspired by the Black Lives Matters movement, and an impatience to change things.
Experience of remote school work seems to vary a lot. Some provide online classes, while others pretty much leave kids to their own devices and ring them occasionally or get them to fill in mental health forms which may help in the long term, but don’t really do much to address their immediate problems, including worry about exams for those facing GCSEs or A Levels and about losing touch with friends.
While some may feel less social pressure and feel their anxieties decreasing because almost all their peers are stuck at home, for others the time at home is allowing their insecurities to multiply.
So what do you do as a parent, given your own mental health may be slightly under siege what with the endlessness of it all, struggles with technology stress, staying up late to socialise with teens or getting up early with younger kids and squeezing work in between algebra and reading comprehensions? I guess the main thing is to role model good mental health practice: getting proper sleep, eating healthily, getting some exercise, not being too hard on yourself, giving and receiving support and talking about how you feel. The hope is that some of it filters down.