WATCH | Anxiety, uncertainty & loneliness: lockdown's toll on children

15 September 2020 - 07:00

Thandiwe Phiri prepares for her first day back at school after almost five months of learning from home. The national lockdown not only prevented the 13-year-old from going to school but has also left an impact on her mental health.

Phiri described feelings of isolation and anxiety during these past months, which she says made her appreciate going to school even more.

“Lockdown taught me that school is not always about learning — it's also about different things, like making friends and learning different life lessons,” says the grade 8 pupil.

While we have been focused on the physical impact of Covid-19, the mental impact could arguably be just as great — not only for adults but children alike.

According to Dr Shaheda Omar, clinical director of the Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children, 900 new cases have emerged since the beginning of lockdown and  “70% of them demonstrated behavioural problems as a result of the lockdown,” said Omar.

Child counsellor and play therapist Brenda Leemans says “family burnout” has also hit children, as many of them feed off their parent's anxiety. Leemans observed an increase in children consuming dangerous content online.

“I have noticed that the games they are coming up with, some of the content is disturbing,” says Leemans. “The child in the therapy room can't seem to break away from it.”

Phiri expressed that the non-pharmaceutical interventions to Covid-19 introduced to schools — like the regular washing and sanitising of hands, wearing masks and social distancing — “overwhelmed” her.

“You can't even hug your friends. There's a lot of things you couldn't do”.

Leemans encouraged parents to break away from their normal routine with their children and create “lockdown rules” to help children adjust to their new normal.

She also advised parents to acknowledge how stressful certain situations may be when their children return to school, offering them regular reassurance.

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