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Nov13FriThe impact of COVID-19 on children’s mental health. November 13, 2020 by Captain Bhreagh Rowe
Maverick was about three years old when I noticed something. Every time we came to a red light while in the car, he reminded the driver to stop. For a while, we didn’t think anything of it. But he kept doing it, no matter how often we reassured him that we would keep him safe. It was the first time I observed my sweet kids worry about something they shouldn’t have to think about.
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
Kids grow up way too quickly these days. They hear more, see more and experience more, at a younger age, than ever before. According to Anxiety Canada, anxiety is one of the most common mental-health concerns, affecting more than 20 percent of children and adolescents. Let’s stop and let that sink in for a second.
And this was before a global pandemic hit and turned all of our lives upside down.
I’ve heard it put this way—if seniors are the ones most infected by COVID-19, children are the ones most affected by response measures. We talk a lot about the long-term health and economic consequences of the lockdown, but there has been little conversation about the effects on children.
As a parent, I’ve heard many dismissive comments, such as, “It’s an extended summer vacation” or “Kids are resilient—they’ll be fine.” Although kids are resilient and they will be OK, it seems as if we have focused a lot on the infected and not a lot on the affected.
Here are some of the consequences of the lockdown: reduced access to our health-care system; widespread delays in routine checkups; heightened stress and conflict in the household; increased risk of family violence; food insecurity due to school closures or parental job loss; missed milestones; loss of structured routines; less social interaction; increased screen time; reduction in physical activity.... Should I continue?
Take a deep breath with me. Parenting is hard. I feel like I fail my kids under normal circumstances, let alone during a worldwide pandemic. I’m sure the last thing you need as a mom or dad is more guilt, or a list of ways we have messed up our kids. But we need to acknowledge just how difficult this has been for our littles, even if they can’t put words to their feelings.
We need to start thinking about them, I mean really thinking about them. We’re all fighting over mask or no mask, school or no school, when what we should really be fighting for is proper care and safety for all, including our littlest people. We don’t need to expose them to everything. They don’t need to know the fights that are happening. They definitely don’t need to watch the news. But they do need us, as adults, to show them how to act, how to advocate for others and ourselves, and how to fiercely trust God in all circumstances.
Or else we are missing out on teaching them an important lesson.
I believe we need to teach our kids to process the world and our anxieties through the lens of faith and God’s Word. In Romans 12: 2, Paul tells us, “Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking” (NCV). We can’t be shaped by the world, even during a pandemic. We must be deeply rooted in Christ.
Now, I’m not saying we should have a mask-burning ceremony, open our doors and completely ignore all health measures. Please don’t do that. I am saying that we have an amazing opportunity to teach our kids what to do when things get hard and anxiety rises. No, not an opportunity—a responsibility.
We have been given this sacred responsibility to show our children the comfort Christ can bring in the midst of so much uncertainty. And that lesson will go well beyond COVID-19.
Maverick is not perfect. He knows very little about accidents and tragedies and COVID-19, but he does know Jesus. He knows that Jesus loves him and cares for him and brings beauty from chaos, and that we can give Jesus all our anxieties because he cares for us.
Do your kids know this? More importantly, do you know this?
Captain Bhreagh Rowe is the community ministries officer at St. Albert Church and Community Centre in Edmonton.
Photo: Juanmonino/E+ via Getty Images