Parenting and Covid – 19

I see a lot of clients in my practice as an outpatient mental health therapist. My primary speciality and something that I have done for the majority of my career as a therapist and a minister was working with kids and teenagers. I am well versed in childhood development.

The Corona virus or SARS COV 2 has taken over our lives in 2020 and has moved my face to face practice to online. This has gotten me thinking a lot about my adolescent clients and their development.

Developmentally, kids (ages 0-8 or 9 ish) have a window and are very reliant on the adults in their lives to create and shape a meaningful existence. Pre teens, tweens and teenagers if they have secured a strong sense of self tend to be more independent and need a lot freedom to cultivate and grow their sense of self. If the parental unit has done it’s job efficiently and effectively, I tell parents that our role as parents during the adolescent years is to provide a space similar to the home base in freeze tag, nobody can touch us and we are safe.

Traumatic events can make a mess of childhood development leading to life long complications with social and vocational development. The now famous Adverse Childhood Events study conducted by Kaiser Permanente has also linked physical health related issues to traumatic events in a person’s life span. Events that are obvious traumas such as war, car accidents and domestic violence often come to people’s minds when thinking about trauma. Lesser thought of are parents with mental health concerns, childhood hospitalizations and in the case of 2020, the Corona 19 Pandemic. This year is going to have a huge impact on our children’s long term mental and physical health.

There is a dearth of research right now due to the fast past Corona is moving. It is understood that research is going on, but this takes time, especially when thinking about longitudinal studies, which can take some time to gather and aggregate data.

Following is a brief synopsis of 3 articles that I was able to gather data from.

Kluger, J. (2020). The Coronavirus Seems to Spare Most Kids From Illness, but Its Effect on Their Mental Health Is Deepening. Time.Com, N.PAG.

Kluger points out early on this paper how COVID -19 has been tough on kids minds and overall mental health. Drawing on my point earlier about parents helping children create a sense of self and a sense of safety, Kluger points out how the insecurities of this world and lack of control are taking a toll on children.

Kluger offers this sobering statistic drawn from Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, “out of China, published in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers in Hubei province, where the pandemic originated, examined a sample group of 2,330 schoolchildren for signs of emotional distress. The kids had been locked down for what, to quarantine-weary Americans, likely seems like a relatively short period–an average of 33.7 days. Even after that single month, 22.6% of them reported depressive symptoms and 18.9% were experiencing anxiety“(Kluger 2020). I would concur with this observation and note that we are seeing similar trends in our office.

Kumar, M., Karpaga Priya, P., Panigrahi, S., Raj, U., & Pathak, V. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on adolescent health in India. Journal of Family Medicine & Primary Care, 9(11), 5484–5489. https://doi.org/10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_1266_20

This article looks at adolescent health in India. Kumar et al. offer that teenagers ” represent the potential influencers of future economic growth and development and this period between 10 to 19 years of life is the ground for investment and provides a window of opportunity for laying a strong foundation to a brighter and healthier future.Most of the adolescents do not face any health issue, but there are still problems of early death, disease, and trauma among them. It becomes a hindrance to utilize their full potential“(Kumar et al. 2020). This thinking is in line with the research and findings of the ACE study.

Kumar really highlights a concern that I have had for our teenagers and that is the role of social isolation. In this study, it is posited that because of COVID -19 could increase the risk of “school dropouts, gender gaps in education, stress and mental health disorders, smartphone dependence or addiction; Early age of initiating smoking, alcohol, or drugs; Interrupted learning depriving opportunities for growth and development; Parents unprepared for distance and homeschooling, particularly those in lower socioeconomic status and illiterate parents; Poor menstrual hygiene; Increase in child labor; Early and forced marriage; Early pregnancy (teenage pregnancy); Nutritional problems (due to stoppage of weekly IFA Supplementation [WIFS] and mid-day meal scheme/program);Increase in exposure to violence, exploitation (including sexual), abuse/maltreatment, and neglect“(Kumar et al. 2020). Many of these points can be seen in the findings of ACES study.

SUBRAMANIAN, S. (2020). Remapping childhood. Maclean’s, 133(6), 57–63.

This article points out a great point early on, “Children adapt quickly”. Again, it is pointed out that this pandemic will have long term impacts on our children. There is a lot of “normalizing” discussion about what a kid should be experiencing and what a kid is experiencing during the COVID 19 pandemic and how these children are adapting. There are snippets or case studies of several children going through the pandemic. It is pointed out towards the middle of article that while the long term effects are concerning, there are trends that show various signs of resiliency.

So to wrap it up, the big question is this, how do we as parents parent in this time of the pandemic? I’ll keep it simple. Love your kids and spend more time with them. Loving your kids though sometimes means loving yourself. If you are dealing with stress, depression, anxiety, see a therapist and get evaluated for taking medicine. If you come to my practice, I am going to refer you to a dietician. If your marriage is struggling, see a marriage and family therapist and get this sorted out.

Your kids are struggling, their life is upside down. If your teenager is moody, give them space, they need it anyway and being home with you all the time is not helping them with their independence. It is not your children’s job to love you, it your job to love your children.

References:

Kluger, J. (2020). The Coronavirus Seems to Spare Most Kids From Illness, but Its Effect on Their Mental Health Is Deepening. Time.Com, N.PAG.

Kumar, M., Karpaga Priya, P., Panigrahi, S., Raj, U., & Pathak, V. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on adolescent health in India. Journal of Family Medicine & Primary Care, 9(11), 5484–5489. https://doi.org/10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_1266_20

SUBRAMANIAN, S. (2020). Remapping childhood. Maclean’s, 133(6), 57–63. 


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