by Mateja Mihinjac
A year ago, at the surge of the COVID pandemic in Europe, we wrote about the importance of staying socially connected at times of "social distancing" and about building personal resilience during this global traumatic event, especially that of children and youth.
During lockdowns, some children and youth sought social connection with their peers despite the imposed restrictions. Others expressed their dissatisfaction by demonstrating against school closures, damaging public property and public messaging through graffiti tagging. Yet others isolated themselves from others and confined themselves to their four walls.
A YEAR LATER…
A year into the pandemic, I have been following with sadness the news about the growing numbers of mental health issues in youth and children due to the pandemic and major disruptions to their lives during lockdowns and restrictions to their daily routines.
In France, mental health hospitalizations of youth under 15 have gone up 80% during the pandemic. In NYC suicidal children spend days waiting to be hospitalized.
In Slovenia, for the first time ever, the demand for hospital beds reserved for children and youth requiring mental health care has exceeded the capacity and now the hospital only admits children who are suicidal.
These are not isolated stories. The effects of these stressors endure and lead to neuropsychiatric challenges in adulthood as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Yet, while many adults and parents may be struggling to gain some sense of normalcy themselves, we all need to support our children and youth with the smooth transition to the lives outside of their four walls and computer screens.
What can be done?
Humans dislike sudden changes to their routines and, while very adaptable, children struggle from sudden alterations to their routines more than adults.
To help children and youth, psychologists Phillips and Ehrenreich-May suggest that home and school need to permit slow adjustment to more active and interactive lives. For children who may require more handholding during this transition, they suggest open conversations, more patience, and help with scheduling the new routines of young people.
Others emphasise school and home settings and, in the spirit of SafeGrowth, I believe we should include local neighbourhoods and neighbourhood organisations where children and youth spend most of their time. Here are some simple tips:
Even if we can’t do everything, we can all do something! It takes a village to raise a child. Why not make our villages more children and youth-friendly, especially during these difficult times? Why not use all our neighbourhood resources and organizations to help them build their personal resilience?
This is our vision for a youth-friendly SafeGrowth city in the post-COVID times.