The Effects of Social Distancing on Children

A young boy and girl.

Social distancing can be quite bad for children. (Image: Bessi via Pixabay)

The outbreak of COVID-19 has made every person mindful of being close to each other. Maintaining social distance is now critical to saving the world from this viral pandemic. However, social distancing might be an okay practice for adults. But what about the millions of children who are in their growth phase? Won’t the lack of social interaction affect their psychological and intellectual development?

Isolating children

In May, a couple of images went viral on Facebook. One image showed children maintaining a huge space between each other by staying inside squares drawn on the ground. Another image showed children in the company of kindergarten caretakers who wore face masks and even a face shield. The images sparked a strong debate about how children were now being denied the comfort of touch and closeness.

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“This is beyond sad. Tiny children made to stand in boxes and denied the right to play with peers. Masked carers making it impossible to read their emotions. Maybe safest for physical health but at what cost to their social development and mental health? This makes me really distressed and angry to see. It is an incredibly cruel setup and better for the kindergarten to remain closed and admit it’s not possible to safely care for children in a way that meets their emotional needs than treat them this way,” a Twitter user said in a series of tweets @LASwiftClassics.

Developmental cognitive psychologist and early years specialist Dr. David Whitbread points out that putting children in a situation where they can see their peers and teachers but are prohibited from approaching them can lead to negative impressions in their minds. Instead, keeping them at home where they can at least have fun with their parents and siblings is the better option. He warns that the longer children are forced to follow social distancing rules, especially those from disturbed households, the more deeply it will affect their mental health.

The teenage years are when we start forming the foundations of our beliefs and values.
The teenage years are when we start forming the foundations of our beliefs and values. (Image: via Pixabay)

Cameron Caswell, a developmental psychologist and family coach, believes that the long-term effects of imposed isolation will be more significant among teenagers. She argues that adolescence is a period where our brains go through one of the biggest growth spurts. This is the time when we start developing our skills, beliefs, value systems, etc., that go on to influence the rest of our lives. Caswell warns that if the experiences of teenagers are stunted during this crucial period, their opportunity to grow to the fullest potential will be thwarted.

Tips for coronavirus quarantining

If you have children at home, you should ensure that they never feel isolated. Make sure that you play some games with them every day. Physical exercises should be encouraged. Do not let them spend all day sitting on the couch, watching TV. Now, if they are spending time chatting online with their peers, let them be. Cutting them off from their friends on Facebook or Twitter is one of the worst things you can do during quarantine, especially if your child is a teenager who is not particularly fond of home.

Children can become depressed. Consult a child specialist.
Children can become depressed. Consult a child specialist. (Image: via Pixabay)

Remember to be patient while dealing with children during the quarantine. Keep in mind that being isolated takes a huge toll on children’s minds and they might end up reacting aggressively. As a parent, it is your job to keep them pacified and disciplined. Watch out for signs of depression and consult a child specialist in case you believe that your child is being stressed out.

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