A summary of the psychological effects of going back to school in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
The waves of coronavirus infections have not yet stopped and their effects are felt in many aspects of society, not only materially and economically, but also psychologically.
Bearing this in mind, it is normal for there to be some concern about the implications of the COVID-19 crisis for the most psychologically vulnerable social groups, among which are children.
Therefore, in this article we are going to focus on the consequences of the situation back to school during the pandemic crisis, and the way in which these affect the smallest members of the household emotionally.
Why are the little ones psychologically vulnerable to the pandemic crisis?
Childhood is, in most cases, the stage of life in which we are most vulnerable psychologically: what happens around us greatly influences our emotional, cognitive and behavioral development, for good and for bad.
It makes sense that this should be the case: in our first years of life we are constantly adapting to all kinds of novel situations that life presents us, before which we have much less knowledge and references than when we are adults and we already have so much a fully brain developed and mature as with a number of practical and theoretical knowledge about how the world works.
That is why, although we retain the ability to learn and adjust our minds to challenges that we have never encountered before, during childhood the human mind is especially flexible and prone to integrating experiences quickly, at the price of not always doing it. the most systematic and appropriate way for our own well-being.
After all, if learning about what happens around us during childhood is already a task that requires effort, learning to deal with the emotions that this produces and with the dysfunctional patterns of behavior that certain experiences can generate is even more complicated, especially if you don’t have help.
Knowing this, it is not surprising that the coronavirus crisis has affected not only many children, but also their families. Now, faced with the prospect of the start of a new year, another experience that the little ones had not faced before either: the first weeks in which certain dynamics of work in class have changed, and in which there is still a certain level of fear and uncertainty about what will happen in these months.
Main consequences of going back to school in times of coronavirus
These are the main aspects in which going back to school in the context of the pandemic can affect boys and girls. They do not have to affect everyone (in fact, the children in whom almost all these forms of discomfort occur will probably be a clear minority, and many will not manifest any of them) but they must be taken into account when it comes to ensure their well-being.
1. Vulnerability to family anxiety
Boys and girls are vulnerable to anxiety when it is present in their daily lives in the people they live with. For example, it is known that minors with fathers and mothers with Generalized Anxiety Disorder are more likely to develop stress and distress problems.
That is why in families in which going back to school is a source of discomfort due to the progression of virus infections (that is, due to the idea of the risk of putting the virus at home), a climate can be created of discomfort in which everyone suffers, and in which a vicious circle is generated: the discomfort of others makes us feel worse, and vice versa.
2. Feelings of guilt
Having seen all the problems that the first wave of contagion produced, and having returned for many hours without parental supervision after several months of having their protection, it is likely that many minors feel overwhelmed with the responsibility of minimizing the risk contagion. This phenomenon can occur especially in boys and girls who live with people who belong to a risk group: the elderly, people with respiratory diseases, etc.
For example, this can lead some of the children to try to take precautions to an unhealthy point that produces more problems than it saves. And since it is impossible not to neglect yourself at any time, feelings of guilt appear, posing an added challenge that you have to know how to manage emotionally. After all, it will take several days until it is known for sure that that moment in which the little one put his hand to his mouth did not translate into subsequent infections.
3. Demotivation and stress due to uncertainty
It is no secret that there is clear uncertainty about what will happen during the first months of the course, both at a social level and in the organization of the educational system.
The fact of not being able to draw up clear plans to organize knowing that the course will run as usual can make many boys and girls unmotivated and take these weeks of class as time thrown away, in which it will not be possible to finish syllabi or consolidate knowledge because at any moment schools will be closed and improvisations will be made about how the lessons will proceed. Most have already gone through the experience of distance classes during the end of the previous year, in which the lack of preparation of the education system for these kinds of scenarios was evidenced.
On the other hand, this lack of clear information about what will happen is capable of leading many children to a situation of blockage in which doubts accumulate to the point of not knowing what to do and suffering stress. The prospect of seeing classes interrupted and subjected to a way of studying marked by improvisation takes away from them references. For example: do you have to make an effort to prepare the oral presentation in front of the whole class, if it may not be possible in the end? If yes, is it bad to make it intended to be seen by many people, and not just the teacher? Will I be able to get the Physical Education grade at the end of the term? Etc.
4. Doubts about how to relate to others
Predictably, many children will feel more fear than the rest at the idea of being infected by being around others. This, taking into account that boys and girls tend to touch each other more than adults, is relevant, because trying to avoid this kind of interaction can cause many to be excluded from the dynamics of the game, or to experience rejection.
What to do?
Faced with these types of risks and problems, these are some tips to keep in mind.
1. Help the little ones to realize that school is more than what happens in class
The educational process is not limited to attendance at the educational center, and that does not change even if classes are carried out by videoconference.
2. Give support to possible conflicts or problems when socializing
Listening to their problems and giving them the opportunity to express themselves without being prejudiced allows finding solutions with the participation of teachers and other parents.
3. Help him build his new habits
Given the need to adapt to the new scenario, it is good to help the little ones when it comes to generating that dynamic of habits, either by making it easy for them to learn and memorize those routines or when making time modifications if necessary.
4. Help him question his fears
Feelings of fear and guilt are supported by dysfunctional beliefs. Through conversations, children can be helped to see how these beliefs are shaken by contrasting them with reality.
5. If necessary, go to therapy
Family therapy and child and adolescent therapy can be the solution in cases of significant and persistent discomfort.
Are you looking for psychological assistance and psychotherapy services?
If you think that the problems arising in the context of the coronavirus pandemic negatively affect you and / or your family, please contact us. At Cribecca Psicología we offer both child-adolescent and adult psychotherapy as well as family therapy and counseling for parents, among other services. You can find us in our center located in Seville, or through the modality of online therapy by video call. On this page you will find our contact details.
Aktar, E .; Nikolić, N. & Bögels, SM (2017). Environmental transmission of generalized anxiety disorder from parents to children: worries, experiential avoidance, and intolerance of uncertainty. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 19 (2): pp. 137-147.
Grupe, DW & Nitschke, JB (2013). Uncertainty and Anticipation in Anxiety. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 14 (7): pp. 488-501.
Osmanağaoğlu, N .; Creswell, C .; Dodd, HF (2018). Intolerance of Uncertainty, anxiety, and worry in children and adolescents: A meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 225: pp. 80 – 90.