Look what has happened when we were forced to take our kids out of the classroom. When Covid created an unnatural field of existence in our children’s lives no one knew the results and implications of social starvation. The effects it had on children, parents and teachers have been devastating. We are witnessing an era of painful and unknown outcomes. The transition away from quarantining signaled an end to several years of remote schooling that stunted learning and increased mental health problems. The worst is yet to come. (I hate being the bearer of bad news!)
Children, not unlike adults are social beings. Learning has always taken place in the presence of other children. We learn best by sharing our thoughts, ideas, and impressions when we are merged with others. Our minds bounce off one another and it stimulates original thought and curiosity. Children are filled with wonder and curiosity and their environment plays the most important part in their discoveries. Alone, in front of a computer for hours can cause stagnation and deprivation of social interaction which leads to depression, insomnia, and anxiety as well as suicide. It can also manifest in social anxiety as things move back to normal. Having been isolated for two years, deprived of classmates, intellectual stimulation and socialization, can cause multiple mental health issues. We are facing an anomaly for the first time in our lives. Never has this happened in our lifetimes and we are seeing the manifestations of social deprivation and the devastation it has caused in our families. The long-term effects of quarantine and isolation have yet to be seen.
The question is what can we do about it now that they are lifting the quarantine, or is it too late? Mental illness has always been a conundrum to deal with. When my daughter struggled with bipolar disorder that eventually took her life, there was no place for her to get help under the system that failed her and so many others. Today, 24 years later, not much has changed. The mystery about the brain still exists. Most homeless are not lazy. Most are mentally ill with no resources available.
Now our children are going through a crisis that have left them with serious issues. The quarantine coupled with the school shootings have left them frightened and feeling threatened. The statistics of depression and anxiety are staggering. Most parents don’t know how to cope with the changes their children have gone through. Parents feel frustrated and scared. Their fears are palpable and the effects it has on their relationships are also shattering. The divorce rate has increased along with mental illness including suicide. Families have more to worry about today with inflation and preparing for a possible recession along with children that need emotional support. We are suffering as a nation. The need for love, compassion, tolerance, communication and community was never more needed than now.
So, what’s the answer? What can we do to help our children integrate back to their classroom settings and find inner peace? There are no bullet point answers or magic bullets to solve this problem. The best remedy that I know of from my professional experience is to be there for each other. Families need to talk. They need to share time with each other. They need to be patient and proactive with one another.
Love heals and time is what matters. When time is given to children, they know they matter. Make time for each other. Parents especially need time for each other. Communicate with your kids. Ask questions—provide answers and when you don’t know the answer, find out what you need to know. Find time to have fun and joy. If things become too difficult, seek out a friend, find a therapist. Call me! There is help. Go to church, synagogue or a place you can find support, peace and tranquility. Take a family vacation. Dance, floss, stretch! Work out! Walk! Sleep in on weekends. Make love! Watch a video on mindfulness. Learn how to meditate. Practice Yoga. Pray. Try to be positive and work a program that teaches wellness. There is much out there but its up to each of us to reach out and make it happen. You are the only one who can make it happen. As Nike says: JUST DO IT!
Joan E Childs, LCSW is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker and author of I Hate The Man I Love: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success. In private practice since 1978, she specializes in individual and couple’s therapy, grief therapy, EMDR, NLP, Inner Child Work and codependency. Learn more about her services at www.joanechilds.com.