Written by Lubna Hanifa M, Grants Researcher Intern Project Child Indonesia
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected millions of people worldwide in different ways. Most people, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity have experienced its effects in one way or another, perhaps changing their lives forever. The pandemic has threatened not only global physical wellbeing, but mental wellbeing as well.
Amongst those at risk are school-age children who are currently at crucial periods in their life for learning and socialization. Thanks to the pandemic, many students are experiencing consequential damage to their mental health which may have enduring long-term effects.
The Switch from Offline to Online Schooling
First and foremost, one of the major consequences of the pandemic has been the widespread closure of schools. The drastic shift to online learning – that is still ongoing, even now – has the potential to trigger further mental health problems as they interfere with numerous aspects of a child’s life. For school-age students, peer groups hold an incredibly crucial role in their lives. Furthermore, regular school days provide structure and routine for children. As they are robbed of these critical things, feelings of loneliness and uncertainty become common. As a consequence, children may become more dependent and clingy towards parents. If these feelings persist and are severe enough, further problems may arise that negatively impact their mental health such as depression or anxiety.
Costs of Self-Isolation and Quarantine
In addition to school closures, children who have experienced or are undergoing self-isolation or quarantine may also experience detrimental effects in regards to their mental health. Young children in particular are susceptible to grieve the parental separation, as parents are key individuals in that life stage. Moreover, children who had experienced mandatory self-isolation were more likely to develop posttraumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, as well as adjustment disorder.
Feeling Unsafe at Home
For some children, the major risk factor to their safety actually comes from their own households. The prolonged time of staying at home exposes them to dangers they would otherwise be able to avoid by going about their daily routines before the pandemic hit. Social isolation in abusive homes is a specifically pressing issue. Increased stress and economic uncertainty experienced by their parents is a factor that can potentially exacerbate the occurrence of domestic violence and abuse. Such family situations can lead children to feel increasingly restless, anxious, or irritable in addition to being physically threatened. In some cases, it is possible that the child has experienced pent up emotions as a result of prolonged stay at home periods, thereby making them more prone to conflicts with other family members in the household.
All in all, although certain regulations are in place to protect children and their families from the virus, these restrictions might actually inflict unintended harm. The urgency for regulation-makers to balance the threat of the virus in addition to the threat towards the public’s mental health, especially that of children, must be taken into urgent consideration.