How lockdown has affected mental health in children

None of us could have predicted we would end up facing a year of lockdowns, restrictions and with it, long term social isolation from our friends and family.

The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has been felt on all people of all generations across the world and it will take all of us a long time to re-adjust as restrictions begin to ease. Especially as we know social distancing, quarantines and testing may stay as a standard part of our lives for some time yet.

As resilient as children are, there are concerns about how such a long period of social isolation might impact their confidence and well-being in the long run.

So what is social isolation?

In brief, a lack of social interactions and human connection will lead to social isolation and during the lockdowns we have been through in the last year, many of us will have experienced this. We are instinctively sociable creatures and being separated from family, friends and peers for long periods of time can have damaging consequences.

As restrictions begin to ease, it doesn’t mean emotional problems will instantly disappear too, and for young people, they are more likely to experience anxiety and depression after a period of social isolation ends. Evidence is starting to emerge suggesting that the prolonged social isolation we have experienced could impact children and adolescents’ long-term development and their mental health.

How do I know if my child is affected?

Even whilst at home with parents and siblings, lots of children have experienced loneliness and isolation from their friends, extended families, teachers and their peers at school, and connections at regular clubs they might be part of.

Some of the behaviours parents have noticed in their children during the lockdowns whilst isolated include:

  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Boredom
  • Unusually clingy
  • Impatience
  • A change in their manners and acting rudely
  • Lack of motivation
  • Easily stressed and upset
  • Increased anxiety and worry
  • Sleepier than usual
  • More sedentary than usual
  • Expressing feelings of loneliness
Helping children move forward

If you’re concerned about your child, don’t blame yourself – remember we are living through a global pandemic which none of us have experienced before! Plus, there are things you can do to help your child. Where possible, being in social settings with their peers will help boost their mood and improve cognitive functions. (Always follow safe social distancing practices and government guidance). If they are unable to meet friends face to face during lockdown, set up time online with their friends. They can complete an activity together – this will help them feel connected and remind them they are not alone in this experience.

It’s also key to ensure you take them outside of the four walls of the house once a day, every day. Whether it’s for a walk or playing in the garden, a change of scene from indoors will have huge benefits. They may be disinterested and insist they don’t want to go on yet another walk, but a break in the routine and fresh air will do them good. Even daily gentle exercise has been proven to reduce anxiety in adults and children. Physical activity releases endorphins which will boost your child’s mood, overall wellbeing and reduce their stress hormones.

Benefits of exercise and martial arts

We’ve discussed the benefits of gentle daily exercise, but as restrictions ease, participating in a group exercise class will significantly help the mental health of children. When participating in a quality Martial Arts class near you it gets your child out of the home, gives them goals to work towards as they train and gives them the company of others in the class! We of course want our young people to have the physical health benefits of exercise, but we also love seeing them laugh through a class and leave with a big smile on their face. Martial Arts, in particular, has a holistic approach and will not only strengthen the body but the mind and spirit too, helping your child build better coping mechanisms to deal with any effects of social isolation.

You can also rest assured that all our Martial Arts classes follow all safety guidelines including regular sanitising of hands and equipment, wearing face coverings and practising social distancing to keep safety a top priority.

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