There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed almost everyone’s lives in some way. While the news tends to focus on things like job losses, deaths due to the virus, and the creation of a vaccine, it’s easy to forget about another important group that has been impacted by this virus: children.
Even in the early stages of this pandemic, schools closed across the country to in-person classes. In March 2020, more than 26 million students were ‘out of school’ and had to adjust to eLearning or other practices to ensure their safety. Now, discussions are in place all over the country as to whether schools should re-open in the fall or not.
But, while the adults are debating about schools and social distancing, it’s important to think about the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the next generation. How will the pandemic impact not only the education of our children, but their social skills, and their mental health?
Many states are taking different routes when it comes to schools re-opening. Some are choosing to go fully remote with their learning. Others are trying a hybrid method, and some are fully re-opening with safety measures in place like masks and distancing.
But, it’s clear that no matter what format your child’s school chooses, their academic careers will be changed, perhaps forever. Already, it can be argued that some children may have fallen behind due to the sudden drop from in-person learning. About 25% of the knowledge gained during a school year is typically lost during the summer. Even if children were eLearning for the last few months of the school year, many don’t retain information the same way from a screen. That makes the idea of going back to in-person learning even more important for some.
Children all learn differently. Some are social learners who require calming, non-distracting environments to feel motivated. The four elements of social learning are:
A lack of motivation from staring at a computer screen could have negative impacts on the learning abilities of children across the country. While going back to physical classrooms isn’t an option for everyone right now, it’s important to consider the long-term effects of how education could be disrupted as a result of this pandemic. These issues aren’t just plaguing the U.S. Children all over the globe are faced with difficulties in education as a result of this pandemic, especially girls in developing countries who already struggle to find the resources they need and deserve.
Because so many children had to make the switch to eLearning and some will continue with remote education for the foreseeable future, they are missing out on friendships and socialization that could leave a lasting impact.
Physical connection is important for all ages, but especially for kids. In a world where technology has been taking over for years, it has now become more than a luxury or a form of entertainment. For many, it has become a necessity. Children and adults alike have had to change the way they go through their days. Things like video streaming and virtual experiences are becoming more popular than ever, which can be done at home and without interacting with other people.
Social interaction has always been important for the developmental health of children, especially when they are very young. It helps to encourage:
- Language development
- Conversation skills
Now, parents might find themselves wondering if their children will seek comfort in moments of isolation, or if they will know how to properly react and respond at social gatherings in the future. This pandemic may even cause some children not to trust what’s happening in the world at large, as it can change every day.
Long-Term Effects on Mental Health
Obviously, these are issues that can lead to more long-term effects on children. Already, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued statements on the stress and mental health concerns that can occur due to the effects of this pandemic. It even suggests that children and teens are at greater risk of feeling that stress and struggling with it. Feelings of uncertainty, loneliness, and a future that seems unstable can all contribute to fear, anxiety, and even depression in children of all ages.
For many, COVID-19 has been a traumatic experience. Thankfully, as a parent, you can help your child to work through this stressful life experience and learn how to cope. Some tactics to keep in mind include:
- Creating a soothing environment
- Engaging them in distractions that can take their focus away from trauma
- Facilitating a regular, normal schedule
- Using positive reinforcement
- Setting a personal example with the way you react
- Nurturing their interests
By staying active in your child’s life and making yourself aware of their mental health as much as possible, you can help to limit some of the potential long-term mental health issues that might be caused by this pandemic.
It will take some time to truly see how COVID-19 has impacted the next generation. But, as we all continue to adjust to a “new normal,” it will be interesting to see what that looks like for our children, and how it will shape the future of the world.