Loneliness due to the pandemic is mainly hard on children. Compared with adults, kids tend to have a harder time communicating their feelings. In this situation kids can’t rely on familiar coping strategies, Social distancing measures also prevent kids from spending time with their peers during an important period of growth and social development. Friendships with other children can give kids crucial support, build a sense of belonging, and help them to develop personal identities.
Loneliness in children is also worrisome because it can have long-term effects. Research shows that loneliness in kids is linked with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression in the following years. Due to heightened stress and reduced access to health care, the COVID-19 pandemic also might worsen children’s existing mental health conditions.
Helping Kids Cope With Loneliness
As frustrating, painful as social distancing is for kids, it’s important to continue taking steps to prevent the spread of the virus. This means keeping space between your children and other people outside your household. To help your child deal with loneliness caused by social distancing:
- Encourage Spending Time With Friends
Your child needs to spend quality time with friends to feel connected and supported. The safest way for your child to talk to or play with others during a pandemic is through phone calls. Older children might enjoy texting or playing online games with friends. This might require temporarily loosening your rules about your child’s amount of daily screen time. Just make sure to continue ensuring quality screen time by previewing your child’s games and supervising your child’s online activities.
- Provide Extra Reassurance At Home
Children need secure relationships with their parents during stressful times. Helping younger children cope might involve a few more hugs and cuddles too. Be there for your child and regularly check on how he or she is doing. It can be helpful to agree on a regular time each day or week do this. If possible, take advantage of this opportunity to spend more time together and come up with family activities that you all enjoy.
- Stay In Touch With Family And Friends
Set up calls or video chats to allow your child to spend time with extended family and other people important to him or her. You might ask a relative to read a story to your child over the phone.
- Talk About Feelings
Your child might be sad about missing an important social event. Acknowledge your child’s loss, ask about their feelings, and validate them by showing that you understand. Allow your child to lead the discussion, rather than making assumptions about how they think and feel. You also might consider giving your child an age-appropriate book that deals with loneliness. This can give your child words to describe what they feel. Also, explore different ways he or she might cope with these kinds of losses, such as planning something for when social distancing is no longer needed.
- Seek Daily Purpose
Spending time doing activities of value can give your child’s day structure and purpose. This can help your child cope with the change in their routine. Encourage your child’s unique creativity. To motivate your child, consider organizing a talent show on a video conferencing platform by inviting a family or your child’s friends. Older kids might enjoy researching a topic that they’re passionate about and sharing what they’ve learned with friends.
Your child can’t control the current need for social distancing but your child can control how they choose to deal with the circumstances. By encouraging your child to connect with others, share their feelings, and find daily purpose, you’ll help them cope with loneliness due to the pandemic. Working through this challenge also might contribute to your child’s personal growth and better prepare them to deal with future obstacles.