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The Era of COVID… The absence of school is a “trauma” for kids

BY BRITTNEE NAVE
STAR CORRESPONDENT
 
School has always been a place for physical and mental development in children…but what about in the era of COVID-19?
 
Since earlier this year, schools across the nation closed their doors and concluded the school year online. Now, as cases rise, despite plans to reopen, things remain uncertain as the pandemic rages on.
 
This leaves the question, what is the impact of COVID-19 on the mental well-being and development of children? 
 
According to Tim Perry, Senior Vice President of Children’s Services at Frontier Health, such an impact could be considered a trauma.
 
Perry broke the mental impact, which is not just for kids but anyone, into three main things: heightened anxiety (i.e. with fears over the future,etc.), social isolation, and trauma. 
 
“Just the fact that we are in a pandemic is traumatizing, especially for children,” he said. “They see people on television in hazmat suits and wearing masks and the news on death rates. This is very traumatizing for a child, especially if they have been cut off from their classmates and their support system.”
 
Perry said in terms of development, relationships are a key aspect of mental well-being, such as a sense of belonging and social patterns. 
 
“When we are cut off from that, we lose that connection, that sense of community, that sense of support,” he said. “Children get cues about how they fit in and what kind of individual they are from peer interaction.
 
“Without that they don’t really get a good sense of good self-awareness and who they are and how they fit it.”
 
He explained that prolonged periods without this interaction can have detrimental effects on a child’s well-being.
 
In terms of what age group would be most impacted, school-aged or teens, Perry said it can be impactful to all age groups of students in one way or another.
 
One way he mentioned is the lack of structure in a child’s life without school, which after prolonged periods can be hard to eventually adjust back to. 
 
He said that children he has spoken with in the last few weeks are actually missing school and their classmates.
 
“I think even children are missing the structure school provides,” he said.
 
As ways to remedy the potential impact, Perry made suggestions like having education activities in a creative nature, allowing kids to maintain contact with their friends through technology, and practicing with children how to social distancing, etc. 
 
Perry concluded by saying it is crucial to remind children it will be okay. 
 
“Remind children that they are safe, this is a temporary situation, there will be a time there will be normalcy and they will be able to have that time again,” he said.