Psychological Impact of Social Distancing on Your Kids: What You Can Do About It

social distancing

The world of adults is upside down, and maybe you think the main concern of children is not being able to play at the park or meet with their friends. But even with technology and entertainment at home, they are having a hard time, too.

The impact of social distancing on your children can be direct or indirect, and both place a significant burden on their mental health and stability. When parents lose their tempers, freak out or exhibit paranoid traits at home, this has a negative impact.

And even if they remain calmed and poised, acting like an anchor at home, this changing world all around children causes mental and emotional stress most of us are unable to detect without proper guidance.

How do you know if your children are losing their emotional stability? And what can you do about it during isolation?

Psychologic warning signs in children and adolescents

Preschool and school boys and girls usually manifest their emotional problems and anxiety in the physical sphere. Thus, try to detect the following and other physical manifestation of emotional distress:

  • Restlessness, agitation, or an increase in their physical activity needs
  • A significant reduction in their physical activity levels
  • Sudden changes in appetite levels
  • Sudden changes in bowel habits (constipation and/or diarrhea)
  • Recurrent bedwetting in children who have been dry at night
  • Alterations or reductions in the perception of touch (less frequent)

They may also have emotional manifestation of discomfort, such as irritability, temper tantrums, and emotional lability (sudden mood swifts).

In contrast, adolescents usually have the following warning signs and symptoms:

  • Changes in their sleeping pattern
  • Recurring and bothering thoughts and concerns
  • Stomach pain and gastrointestinal issues
  • Panic attacks or suddenly feeling out of breath
  • Heart palpitations (under the sensation that the heart is beating irregularly, too hard or too fast)
  • Memory problems
  • Social isolation

All of this is due to a sudden change in their patterns and daily activity.

What can you do about it during isolation?

You may be hesitant to look for professional help if you find mild symptoms in your child or adolescent. But there are things you can do to reduce the psychological burden, improve their behavior, and prevent unexpected emotional problems:

When you’re talking to your child and want to feel supportive, kneel to meet their height and speak in a comforting tone. Even if you don’t say in words, he will feel you’re really interested and open to dialogue.

  • Adapt the information and your own expectation to the age and education level of your children.
  • Allow for a free expression of thoughts and feelings at home. Listen without interrupting and use comforting phrases such as “I’m here”, “you can talk to me”, “I’m listening to your”, “I can understand it is difficult for you”, “I will be close to you if you need me”.
  • Offer reliable information to your children about the current situation from trustworthy sources. As you do, try to relate images and stories to the topic to stimulate their concentration and retention of the information. Be sure not to be alarmist or create a fearful and tense environment at home.
  • Take a time every day to practice breathing exercises. Try to make it a family practice for 15 minutes.
  • Promote physical activity as a family practice for 30 minutes every day, or at least activities where you are moving your body as opposed to be seated or lay down.
  • Take a hot bath or shower to relax before bedtime. Be careful with extreme temperatures.
  • Introduce or keep the habit of tea time every day, and consider calming infusions at night if any family member is having sleep problems
  • Create constructive habits at home such as arranging or rearranging things at home, gardening, cleaning, or starting a DIY project.
  • Promote social interaction at home without forcing anything.
  • Promote good emotions and feelings of gratefulness by creating a wall project at home highlighting positive aspects and things we are grateful for as a family.

Remember that the emotions of children and adolescents -to some degree- depend on the social interaction at home. It is a great time to create a positive and constructive environment at home that contributes to feeling safe and secured. This is possible when parents act as an emotional anchor at home, and when they care for their own mental and emotional stability as a primordial first step.


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