Thanks to Duangphorn Wiriya for sharing this photo on Unsplash.
Loneliness affects us physically, especially during this time of social distancing. It affects our kids, too.
There's been a study already from the Journal of American Child and Adolescent Psychiatry on the effects of loneliness and isolation on children in turbulent situations throuough history. They went through articles published in English from 1946 to 2020, and here's what they found:
"Social isolation and loneliness increased the risk of depression, and possibly anxiety at the time loneliness was measured and between 0.25 to 9 years later. Duration of loneliness was more strongly correlated with mental health symptoms than intensity of loneliness."
This is such a difficult time for all of us, and children are no exception! This finding agrees with other research on how loneliness harms the immune system, impacts your sleep, even heightens blood pressure.
It’s disheartening stuff. Luckily, science is helping us out with cures for loneliness, too, and these can easily apply to the kids we care for:
Meditation. This InsightTimer page has several guided meditation sessions for kids, from 1 minute up to 30 minutes long.
Animal therapy. Pets can be great for helping with loneliness. Depending on your situation, now may be the time to think about getting a pet for your child. Giving them a living thing to care for, even a bird or a fish, can be so helpful.
Gardening. Speaking of caring for living things, getting kids out to get their hands in the dirt can be so therapeutic. Herbs grow quickly if you have some soil to plant in. Even if you don't have much access to soil, you can sprout wheatgrass or chia seeds in a bowl of potting soil on your kitchen countertop and have results in less than a week!
Yoga. There's a popular YouTube channel for kid yoga called Cosmic Kids. Jaime Amor adapts yoga movements to act out Star Wars, Frozen, etc.
Cooking together. Cooking comfort foods together can create some fun family memories.
Therapy. If you find that your child is lashing out, or that your patience with them is thinning (or nonexistent), it may be helpful to seek some extra help. Children can express their emotions in big and chaotic ways, and if you find them fraying away at your last nerve, we can help give you the tools to deal.
Talk to your child. Ask them what they need. Try to carve out some time for them. Help them connect virtually with friends and family, or write letters. If they’re feeling stressed, that could impact their health. You can help them find healing.
Good luck, parents! I'm confident you are doing the absolute best you can!