Pandemic fatigue, we all have it. However, it is affecting children more than adults in many cases.
Pandemic fatigue by definition is the mental exhaustion caused by being in a state of heightened awareness and alertness in the face of COVID combined with the uncertainty of how the pandemic will develop. Parents are struggling to continue to juggle working from home and teaching their kids who are doing online school. Healthcare workers are getting burned out from the stress of working with COVID patients and seeing the numbers of infected patients continue to go up.
Kids are becoming more anxious and depressed, not just about isolation and not seeing their friends, but I'm having parents bringing their kids to me about anxiety over things they've never been anxious about before. This is especially true because just as COVID numbers started to increase locally, we also had a major earthquake. I have some patients who if they get a cold are asking me if they're going to die. I have others who are terrified of germs and think they will get COVID if someone touches their dog or they will change their clothes as soon as they get home from being out of the house, even if they just went to a store.
People are tired of wearing masks. People are tired of physically distancing, of not having normal life milestones being able to be celebrated in the way we have done for years. So since this is not showing any signs of slowing down anytime in the immediate future, how can you help your children do the best they can while dealing with COVID in the long haul?
First, continue to make mask wearing fun. I've said it before, and I'll repeat it again. If the mask is something fun, kids will want to wear them more. Have fun characters on their masks. Let the kids have enough variety in their masks that they can coordinate them with their outfits. That's exactly what my younger son does every day. His teachers comment all the time about his cool masks and how they match what he's wearing.
For hand sanitizers, have seasonal scents. If your child doesn't have eczema and they're not sensitive to different fragrances, let them choose what they want to smell on their hands all day long.
Empower kids. Let them know it's okay to tell family members and friends that if they just aren't masked or they're not social distancing, then your kid can't play with them. It's okay to remind others of the rules. Just make sure it doesn't turn into a daily battle and they don't turn into the germ police.
Let kids connect with friends online. I know we didn't use to be a video game family, but when the pandemic hit and schools went online, I caved. I bought an Xbox for my boys and I let them have a certain amount of time to play with friends every day. It helps them still feel connected to their friends, but in a safe way. It also lets them get a break from school and just play and be kids.
Finally, remember that it's okay for them to be bored and figure out new things to do. It's okay to let them cry, even if they can't tell you what they're sad about. It's okay to have breakdowns and just get angry and need you to hug them until they're screaming turns into crying and then I'm sorrys. As long as your child isn't disrespectful or violent, let them express their emotions. Then, if they want to talk about their feelings, if they don't want to, that's okay. Let them have their space. The bottom line is everyone is feeling pandemic fatigue in one way or another. If we all help each other, then we will get through this together.
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