As the popular adage says, no one is an island. An adult cannot survive on their own. Humans are hardwired to communicate and connect with another person. Without social interactions, they may suffer from mental health problems, including depression.
Isolation is deadly. The negative impact of loneliness is frequently witnessed among seniors who often have no friends or are far away from family members.
But, the problem does not exist in one certain age group. Teenagers can feel lonely, too, and it can affect their mental health. And, children need interaction to grow into healthy and happy adults.
A Pandemic of Loneliness
However, because of the pandemic, children have to stay at home. They received their lessons via the screen of a laptop or a tablet. Even important events in their lives, such as their or a peer’s birthday, are celebrated in the confines of their living room.
This has been tough for a lot of young people. Preschool or daycare center, for many kids, is not just a place to learn, but an opportunity to interact with others who are in the same age group. No matter how much time parents devote to their kids, they still need and yearn for the attention and friendship of others.
And, unfortunately, not a lot of parents realize the importance of maintaining social interactions for their kids, especially during shelter-at-home orders. After all, households have a lot of things to worry about on top of the pandemic such as the economic downturn that caused millions of people to lose their jobs, the higher cost of goods, and the challenges of homeschooling.
There is no data that provides a look at the impact of loneliness among kids during the pandemic. However, it has to be assumed that it exists for the sake of the children who do not get the opportunity to socialize.
Loneliness among children can lead to low self-esteem which will prevent them from participating in school or at home and robbing them of chances to learn skills that they will need as they grow older.
Loneliness can have lasting impacts, too. Its consequences can haunt them as they mature into an adult and enter the workforce.
What can a parent do to help connect their children to their peers during the pandemic?
Support Meaningful Interactions Through Video Games
The internet made it possible to maintain relationships despite the distance. The World Health Organization made an effort to change the term “social distancing” to “physical distancing” to communicate the need for people to remain connected throughout the pandemic.
While parents have been eschewing the reliance of young people on screens, nowadays, technology is a gateway to many wonderful things, including education and, of course, communicating with friends and loved ones.
For children, however, it may take the form of video games. While adults can talk for hours on FaceTime, children might prefer playing Minecraft with their friends. Many online video games have their own communication platforms that allow players to team up and reach a common goal. It is a great way for kids to make friends or sustain the friendships they already have despite the distance.
Experts agree that, during the pandemic, it is okay that children are spending more time staring at a screen. If they are interacting with other people they age, then their screen time is time well-spent.
Parents Should Spend Time with Each Child
It is also important for parents who are taking care of multiple children at home to spend time with each one. While it is great that families can bond under lockdown, having one-on-one time makes a child feel more connected with their parents. It helps ease feelings of loneliness at home.
The social connection between child and parent is built during childhood, and it will have positive effects on their well-being later on. Children feel supported, especially during a traumatic event such as the current public health crisis.
Conduct Window or Drive-By Visits
Seeing another person on-screen can still feel impersonal. Some children may crave in-person meetups. Play-dates are still a no-no, but children can see their peers albeit at a safe distance through a window and drive-by visit.
During a window visit, the homeowner does not go inside nor invite the visitor in. They stand in front of each other, usually with a window or a door in between them, and say their hellos.
In a drive-by visit, the visitor does not leave their vehicle, or they stand across the street. The other person stands by their home’s door and waves. Either option is not ideal, but it is a way for children to see their friends without risking their health and safety.
COVID-19 should not cause relationships to deteriorate. Instead, it should bring everyone closer (metaphorically) as we all go through this stressful and anxiety-inducing period.