COVID-19 Compulsory Quarantine: Its Effect on Younger Children

Everyone is aware of the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential to cause serious harm, which is why compulsory quarantine has become one of the most significant public health measures implemented so far.

Those infected are advised to confine themselves to their homes or in an isolation facility in order to prevent the further spread of the disease, while those around someone who has it must stay home for 2 to 3 weeks. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that mandatory quarantine can be just as harmful to young children as the virus itself.

The effects of compulsory quarantine on children’s education and mental health

Children are not the face of this pandemic, yet they stand to suffer the most. They may have been spared from the direct health effects of the virus, but this crisis is profoundly impacting their wellbeing. Children of all ages and from all nations are adversely affected by this crisis and by the mitigation measures implemented.

On their education:

Children are not in their school. What should we expect the consequences to be? Research has shown that mandatory quarantine is a psychologically stressful experience. If quarantine is a stressful experience for adults, we can imagine how difficult it may also be for younger children.

Lack of school and interruption to their daily routines could negatively impact their wellbeing. As a result, they must adapt to an uncertain situation that entails new and restricted rules, such as not attending school or seeing their classmates.

On their mental health:

Picking up where we left off, the second effect of compulsory quarantine upon young children is a sense of isolation and separation. In the absence of physical contact with friends and family, children can feel cut off from the world around them. This can trigger feelings of sadness, abandonment, or in some cases, even anger. Worse yet, this sense of isolation can persist long after the child has returned to their everyday life.

It’s therefore important for parents to be aware of this and make an effort to ensure their child doesn’t become too isolated during this time. Doing things like FaceTiming with friends or family members, sending letters or drawings through the mail, or even just having conversations about what everyone is up to can help minimize these adverse effects.

How is your child coping?

Let your child express how they are feeling. It’s normal to feel depressed, anxious, hopeless, and angry. However, if your child’s feelings are constant and overwhelming, or if these interfere with their ability to perform everyday activities like having fun, going to school, doing their homework- these are signs your child might need extra support from you.

Younger children may not be able to describe their feelings but may exhibit changes in their behaviour or development. They may show backward progress in skills and developmental milestones. They may also have increased problems with:

  • Fidgeting and irritability, being more difficult to console, startling and crying more easily
  • Having anxiety and not wanting to socialize
  • Sleeping problems and waking up more often at night
  • Frequent or intense tantrums, frustration, hitting and biting
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed

Quarantine can be a good opportunity to foster parent-child interaction. Have fun together and engage them in family activities to develop their self-esteem and confidence. Parenting in the right way can strengthen family bonds and meet the psychological needs of children.

If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.

Liz McCaughey

Find out more about Liz here

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