Will Corona Virus and the Lockdown have a Lasting Impact on my Child’s Mental Health?

Maisie who is 5 years old said “Mummy I’ve stopped wetting the bed now so can I please go back to school and see all my friends? I’m really missing them!”

Maisie’s mum was shocked with her daughter’s remark. She hadn’t realised that Maisie had thought she was being made to stay home because she had been wetting the bed! 

She had, apparently mentioned a few things about Corona – like “ when corona has gone I’m going to have a proper birthday party” and things like that so it all started me thinking “ What is this pandemic and lockdown doing to my kids mental health?” The novelty has worn off a bit – the singing of happy birthday to the washing of hands routine may still be there – but not with the same va-va-voom that it sparked initially!

Maisie’s mum is just one parent in many who have approached me for help with their child because they are worried about the affect that lockdown has had or is having on their child and will have in the future if not treated.

One mum said “My little girl is refusing to use the potty now and she’s been potty trained for nearly a year! She’s being aggressive towards me and her dad and she’s playing up at bedtime. This has all started since lockdown began!”

Another said: “Jake was such a bright and cheerful child, (9 years old) now he’s moody, stroppy, lazy, and won’t engage in anything we do as a family! Please help, I am sure this all has something to do with anxiety and the corona virus”.

So, all this has started me thinking that kids are going to have a tough time for a while. The anxiety is probably going to hit home when they go back to school, or maybe already has! How are children processing this new way of existing? Are they scared? Do they feel bored? Traumatised? Will their ability to be sociable be altered? And what can parents do to help them?

What kind of behaviours should parents look out for?

Under 3 years old:

  • Irritable
  • Separation anxiety
  • More crying
  • Temper tantrums
  • Night terrors

Children from 3 to 5 years old;

  • Wetting the bed more often
  • Regression
  • Stool holding
  • Tantrums
  • Nightmares

Children for 5 to 9 years old:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Sleep issues
  • Eating problems
  • Anxiety

Children 10 and above:

  • More of the same as above
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Moodiness
  • Insomnia

But why should children be affected so badly?

The main reason is that children do not cope with change.

Their routine has been badly disrupted. Whereas before, they got up they had breakfast and went to school and came home at 3 pm.  Now, they have a day that’s totally different. The wise mums and dads have organised a weekly if not daily schedule for the whole family and have stuck to it but even though that’s a great thing to do it’s still a huge difference to what they have been doing for the past few years!  So for young children, especially those who don’t have the language to express themselves like: “I’m worried, I’m confused, I’m scared, I’m sad etc” they will use their bodies to show what’s going on in their minds – wetting the bed, pooing their pants, not sleeping and so on!

Social distancing is really against human nature isn’t it? Kids are so used to giving their classmates a hug or holding their teachers hand (little ones) It doesn’t feel right to be communicating wholly via a screen does it!

Somebody gave me a good tip about the computer – get an HDM1 cable and connect it to TV – the kids seem to cope better seeing things on a tv screen. Another tip is for parents to have a Plan A and a Plan B for all the time that has been structured throughout the day – for example: if its time to do some school work and the child is really not up to it – go to plan B which might be to play a game involving different countries – at least they’ve learnt some geography at the same time.

What is our “new normal” going to look like?

Going back to school for some children is going to be a bit like the first day of school all over again!  Getting used to routines, finding new friendship groups, there are going to be so many challenges for them.

Perhaps this is going to be a big learning curve for teachers and parents as well. I think it’s a case of being very patient and helping the child to get through all the changes towards the new normal (whatever that may be!)

The important thing will be to communicate with your child in a very calm way about what he or she may find different when he goes back to school. We don’t want to just send them back to school with them thinking that everything will be the same as it was before and when they get there everything is totally different – this would be a complete disaster and you would be setting the child up for some severe anxiety issues.

What impact will this have on children?

We know that there will be those children who have suffered trauma during the lockdown – a parent or grandparent or close relative may have passed away. That would have been bad enough in “normal” everyday life but when we are in the midst of a pandemic and everything is turned upside down you could probably multiply that trauma by a hundred percent!

Research has shown us that trauma can affect a child’s brain and nervous system so it’s so important that an anxious child, suffering loss, fear or trauma, has the therapy he needs to get him back on track again.

However, you have to watch the children who appear to have “sailed through” lockdown. Watch what they do and listen to what they say. If you feel they may have some underlying anxiety, if they stop eating, or have sleep issues, have temper tantrums or meltdowns suddenly for no real reason, or even just have some gentle tears, do get them to a therapist for some trauma related therapy.

Looking on a brighter side, some children will have learned so much more, they may now excel at technology I’m sure!

So, let’s reassure kids like little Maisie, that they haven’t done anything naughty to keep them in lock – down, and hope that young Jake stops being moody and anxious. They will also have learned an awful lot about public health and safety and hopefully they will have seen multiple acts of kindness, generosity and patience.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed eh?

If you are at all worried about your child or teenager, do contact me for advice at:


Elaine Hodgins

Clinical Hypnotherapist and Children’s Behavioural Specialist

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