Children are Still Struggling in Post-Vaccine World While Adults Return to Normalcy
As more of our population becomes fully vaccinated against Covid-19, many of us are now able to enjoy a greater semblance of normalcy. Maskless trips to the grocery store, a return to the office, summer get-togethers with friends, weekend trips, and vacations are increasingly the norm.
For parents, however, it is important to understand that our children are not experiencing the same level of recovery. Children whose parents are in the process of separation or divorce have an even greater burden.
Children under age 12 cannot yet receive a Covid vaccine. Even children over age 12 who are able to be vaccinated have rules still in place in their schools and extracurricular activities. Most children have not experienced a full return to school or all of their regular extracurricular activities, and nearly all schools and other activities still require children to wear masks, among other restrictions. On top of that, many children have missed significant life events, including school graduations, the special senior years, missed college trips, and the special freshman years.
The disruption to children’s normal lives and schedules negatively impacted children in a variety of ways. Many kids experienced isolation during the pandemic. Children’s reliance on the internet brought with it an overreliance on electronics, and in many cases an over-indulgence or dependency on screens. While there is a dearth of robust medical studies to help us understand the full impact of Covid, incidents of mental health issues among children of all ages are reported to have increased during the pandemic.
Separation and/or divorce have made it harder
Children everywhere need continued support as the world pulls out of the pandemic. For parents in the process of separation or divorce, here are some areas deserving your focus:
Health care and mental health support. As a parent processing your own emotions concerning your separation and divorce, it can be hard for you to be the best judge of your children’s emotional needs. Mental health support can be hugely beneficial for parents and children alike during separation and divorce. Therapists have continued to work during the pandemic, and have found that they are able to be very effective and provide good therapeutic support via Zoom. Mental health professionals are also starting to open their practices to see children live.
Children experience their parents’ separation and/or divorce of the family as a separation and/or divorce of them from each parent. Providing your child with a therapist to discuss their issues surrounding the divorce, the pandemic, their school, and their social community helps your children learn how to navigate the world in which they find themselves living. It provides them with a place to work through the restructure of their family and the issues they are facing each day.
Changes in children’s routines. While their friends are resuming their summer camps and eagerly anticipating a return to ‘regular’ school, your child may have new anxiety about which days he or she will be with mom or dad, whether they will be able to continue a sport or other interest, or which school they will attend in the fall. Think about when, how, and what you can communicate to your children about their schedule and routine. It is important that information provided to your children about what they can expect is age appropriate.
Lack of consistency in children’s home environment. A new custody and access schedule is difficult enough under ‘normal’ circumstances, but children must now also contend with their virtual environment (including appropriate audio and video), access to necessary software, hardware, and other technology, not to mention a reliable internet connection. A child’s home environment is now more involved than an appropriate bedroom, desk, and chair. For better or worse, technology is a vital part of their lives.
Both parents need to take the steps necessary to cooperate so their children are having their technology needs met in both home environments. Put your children’s needs first and always allow them to transport their personal property between homes.
Lost sense of security and safety. Having lived through the last year-and-a-half together, we have all experienced a sense of lost security and/or safety. Our children have too, and they look to us to provide this stability. As parents separate and establish two residences, the importance of providing a feeling of safety and security for children cannot be overstated. Sharing information is necessary to avoid your children becoming uncomfortable in either or both houses. Encourage your children to speak to each parent about any fears or uncertainty they have about the new households that their parents have created.