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7 COVID-19 mental health impacts on school children
Mental and Physical Health important for achieving developmental milestones in children
During the childhood life stage, sound mental health is as important as physical health for achieving developmental milestones in every way, helping children achieve their emotional wellbeing and social skills.
According to UNICEF, that school children who are mentally healthy function well at home and in school and they live a motivated and happy life resulting in proper child development, but poor mental health during childhood can severely impact the way children learn, act, react or handle their emotions.
Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic did not only result in sicknesses and deaths globally but also brought a complex array of challenges that had mental health consequences for everyone, including children and adolescents. Here is a detailed exploration of the COVID-19 impacts on the mental health of school children.
1. Disengagement from school work and activities and at-home learning
It was garnered that the mental health of about 15% of the estimated 1.5 billion school children worldwide was put at risk as they were forced to remain at home under nationwide public health orders – or recommendations – during the COVID-19 pandemic neither engaged in any school work and activities nor in individualized at-home learning facilitated by a private teacher, tutor, or instructor.
More so, more than 330 million young people were stuck at home at least till the end of March 2021, not least more than 18 months since the virus spread uncontrollably from February 2020.
Grief, fear, uncertainty, social isolation, increased screen time, and parental fatigue have negatively affected the mental health of children. Friendships and family support are strong stabilizing forces for children, but the COVID-19 pandemic has also disrupted them.
2. Poor parental attention to and care for their children’s needs
It has become difficult for parents to care for their children’s needs and pay proper attention to their behaviours, emotions, and aspirations at home. This is because the parents face uncertainty and stress in their own COVID-19-pandemic haunted lives. Parents are preoccupied with the thoughts of adhering to coronavirus prevention and control protocols to avoid getting infected while keeping up with the demands of their daily commitments and work.
3. Children’s suffer from negative emotions, such as grief, fear, anxieties, and worries
A negative mental health impact of COVID-19 pandemic on school children and students suffering from occasional anxieties, and worries due to uncertainties over the return of their normal way of life, more predominantly, their traditional school life. So many unanswered questions, such as: When will the school reopen? When can they go out and play? When can they visit their favourite places? cross their mind.
It is not unusual for kids, teens, and students to experience negative emotions such as grieves, fear, disappointments, sadness, anxieties, anger, losses, worries, and other uncertainties, but it is the protracted, restraining, and widespread nature of the COVID-19 pandemic that has exacerbated the situation. In mild cases, the school child might find it difficult to sleep or concentrate, and in severe cases, anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies might ensue.
Worsening the situation, parents find it difficult to calm their children’s anxieties and worries because of the uncertainty, stress, and fatigue associated with their own lives. The occupational or emotional challenges parents face is interfering with their usual ability to address their children’s needs and worries.
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Another negative mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in school children and students is the exacerbation of mental, social, and emotional health problems.
Some children are at greater risk of developing intense reactions, including severe anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies. Any pre-existing mental health problem, past traumatic experiences or abuse, family instability, or losing a loved one can make children highly vulnerable to developing severe mental health conditions.
5. Increased students’ screen time
COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to increased screen time for students in the areas of time spent on social media and online games which could result in negative mental health problems, such as, chronic back and neck pains, anxiety and depression, obesity, and even sleep problems in kids, teens and students. Sometimes, students who more time on-screen end up having poor test scores. Children’s screen time should not be more than 2 hours per day.
6. Interrupted friendship, lack of family support, and strained family relations
Living through the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the kids’ friendship and family support in unprecedented ways and the interpersonal-related pattern of their lives.
At the peak of the pandemic, Kids, teens, and students were forced to stay apart from their peers, friends, and family members because of physical and social distancing requirements resulting in loneliness, and isolation. The extremely boring lockdowns interrupted their social lives – friendship and lacked family support.
Furthermore, the pandemic strained family relationships when many lost contact, communication, and warm touch they enjoyed in the pre-COVID-19 period. Some are looking for ways to rebuild. the interpersonal relationship they once cherished and enjoyed.
Not only did they deal with the uncertainty of the school year, but many also carried the weights of social disconnection from friends and family, fear of uncertainties, anxiety, and worries on their shoulders.
7. At-home inactive and sedentary lifestyle
The World Health Organization (WHO) classified physical inactivity as the fourth leading risk factor accounting for 6% of global mortality, following hypertension (13%), smoking (9%), and diabetes (6%).
The abrupt disappearance of shuttles to schools and other places due to COVID-19 lockdowns made many children globally adjust to homebound lifestyles – increased sit-at-home time.
Experts warned that this sedentary lifestyle can lead to severe mental health issues in children, majorly hampering overall childhood development. It has been well established that physical inactivity contributes to increased health risks for developing a multitude of chronic health diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
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