Local expert advises parents on the psychological impact of Covid-19 on children

"I did see my small one get very disturbed seeing the death and infection rate"
"I did see my small one get very disturbed seeing the death and infection rate"

The Covid-19 lockdown has had a great economic effect on most families. Food security and domestic abuse are just two of the results of job losses that have affected local homes.

Some parents have even ended up separating, pushed apart by the stress caused by the repercussions of the global pandemic, but it's important to know that the pandemic and the lockdown is affecting our children as much as it is affecting us.

Being encouraged to go to school when every evening you hear about the coronavirus cases hiking up is not easy for children.

As the lockdown regulations eased up some of the parents have decided to home school their children, while others have decided to take their children back to school to save the academic year.

All these decisions were informed by the disruptions caused by the increase in infections and in most parent’s defense, they are doing what they think is best for their children, in their circumstances.

The kids are not ok

The local Facebook group #save our children is one place where parents have safely expressed their concerns about sending their children to school.

Examples of concerned parent's comments include:

"My child had a panic attack when the school first reopened, had to call the Emergency Services at midnight, I have never been through something like that myself. Our kids are going through a lot!" writes Mathabang.  

"I'm trying to keep my boys occupied with school work. I don't watch news regarding Covid-19 with them. I just tell them what they need to know. I did see my small one get very disturbed seeing the death and infection rate, so I prefer reading the statistics when they are asleep. Kids are so sensitive," commented Youlisha. 

Also read:

How to help our kids?

Parent24 has been inundated with emails from worried parents, so we asked Dr Serahni Symington, a healthcare practitioner specialising as a Registered Counsellor in Durbanville, Cape Town, how we can best help our children.

Dr Symington completed her studies in Psychology and Play Therapy, she works with children and families assisting in various areas of family life and functioning including emotional challenges. 

    Read our Q&A with Dr Symington below:

    How would a parent know if a child is experiencing anxiety?

    Usually when children’s behaviour changes and it is not as it used to be. 

    If there are behavioural incidents that do not correspond with the child’s natural characteristics or usual personality traits, then that might also be a cause for concern.

    What are the signs to look out for?

    Other signs to look out for include frequent angry spells, unusual tantrums brought on by insignificant instances, or very sad and withdrawn behaviour. Look for regular changes in sleeping or eating patterns, and negative self-talk.

    Dr Symington told Parent24 that some of the issues children are facing now include grieving the loss of their parents, and a loss of opportunities, with others possibly having to enroll in new schools next year due to parents losing employment and so on. 

    Her advice to families in these situations includes:

    1. Find your passion

    Hobbies and sports can be done at the moment. Engage in enjoyable hobbies that ignite motivation to get moving or be creative. Even if it means training if you can’t compete.

    For example, a child who likes soccer can start practicing tricks with their ball or do the footwork for agility, or an arty child can start drawing or creating - doing new projects to share with others when they are allowed to again. 

    2. Find a support system

    Social connection is very important, and trying to find ways to engage is beneficial to emotional well-being.

    A parent, friend or guardian who can support you emotionally and listen when you have an off day or need connection. This can be done on various platforms including via telephone calls and WhatsApp. 

    3. Have enough sleep and a healthy diet

    Enough sleep and a healthy diet are also able to assist in mood and feeling that there is some inner motivation to continue.

    4. Additional help

    If symptoms persist and children feel they need additional resources, there are platforms such as SADAG, ChildLine and LifeLine that can be contacted to assist further.

    How are your children experiencing the lockdown, and how are you helping your children cope?


    Share your stories and questions with us via email at chatback @ parent24.com. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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