It is safe to say that this past year has had a detrimental toll on everyone in the world. From international lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and e-learning, this pandemic has affected everyone in monumental ways. The Association for Psychological Science (APS) talks of human interaction and behavior and how it is one of the most important factors in assessing the severity of a pandemic—accounting for both the spread of the disease as well as the psychological impacts of anxiety, uncertainty, and isolation (APS, 2020). As seen through news and media, COVID-19 was a danger to everyone but had the worst toll on the elderly and those who are immunocompromised. An overlooked change towards a group was children and the effect of COVID-19. Children have an innate need for social interaction and socialization in general.
As children are affected by COVID-19, so are their caregivers. Since caregivers are the primary regulator for high-intensity emotions in children, (like stress), physical touch from their caregivers is important (APS, 2020). Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, coming into close contact with children can be dangerous for both the caregiver and the child– having added more stress on both bodies that can leave them susceptible to the virus and other health risks. If a caregiver or child is sick, it is recommended by the CDC and other healthcare professionals to refrain from interacting physically with the child. Otherwise, it is encouraged to exchange physical touch such as hugs, patting on the back, and other positive and healthy forms of touch to reduce stress hormones and even lower heart rate for the child, ultimately relaxing them through feelings of comfort (Ludington & Hosseini, 2005, as cited in APS, 2020) .
Overall, both physical and emotional comfort is important in reducing stress and anxiety levels in children. It is also crucial to explain to children the significance of staying inside and staying healthy. Research shows that children under the age of 5 do not have a complete understanding of illness and how it can be transmitted (Blacker & LoBue, 2016). Furthermore, children learn many of their fears and anxieties from what they hear and see, so it is evident to try and educate children in a way that they can understand and learn. At the end of the day, the mental, emotional, and physical health and wellbeing of both the caregiver and the child are what matters. COVID-19 showed us to rely on one another and to build communities of safety, love, and support.
APS Backgrounder Series: Psychological Science and COVID-19: Social Impact on Children. Association for Psychological Science – APS. (2020, April 1). https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/backgrounders/aps-backgrounder-series-children-covid-19.html.
Blacker, K., & LoBue, V. (2016). Behavioral avoidance of contagion in childhood. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 143, 162-170. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2015.09.03
Want to talk to someone who can help? If you would like to speak to a professional counselor or psychologist about this and are in the Chicagoland area, please feel free to contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are located at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.
Written by: Abrea, 2021 Undergraduate Intern