Missed social opportunities during the pandemic have affected our students in immeasurable ways. They have led to a decrease in the overall mental health of our students and they have resulted in unintended behavioral consequences.
Healthy social interactions are important to the overall growth of a child. They thrive with close friendships, hanging out in groups, and participating in fun activities with their peers. When the pandemic forced schools to shut down, kids staying home, and families to quarantined for extended periods of time, it was a recipe for a social and emotional crisis.
Many of the negative behaviors we see in young children and adolescents spiked during the pandemic. Their normal outlet was taken away, and they were left unable to relieve their stress and pressure through healthy social interactions with peers.
As kids continue to struggle with the emotional trauma, we need to understand how this the pandemic has affected them.
Research shows that while alcohol among adolescents declined during the pandemic, nicotine and prescription drug abuse saw a steady increase among our students. It’s believed these substances were most likely used because they’re easier to hide than alcohol ingestion.
Another consequence of the pandemic is the rise in child abuse. Families were under incredible amounts of stress, forced into quarantine which provided a prime opportunity for abusers to take advantage of the situation. Abused children are far more likely to experience depression and suicidal thoughts and can often react violently toward others.
Parents weren’t the only ones to resort to increased violence. Reports indicate that children and adolescents were more easily angered leading to violent outbursts against their parents. Teachers are reporting an increase in violent outbursts during class than before the pandemic.
Gun violence against kids was a direct result of social distancing during the pandemic with gun deaths of US children soaring during this time period. Experiencing gun violence can lead to lasting psychological effects.
An increase in suicide attempts, particularly among girls, was seen during the pandemic. After months in isolation, limited social interactions with trusted adults and peers, and extreme feelings of stress, loneliness, and hopelessness, many school aged children have attempted or committed suicide.
It will take time, professional help, and supportive adults to help our kids work through the social and emotional trauma caused by the pandemic.