As lockdown continues, children’s mood is lowering
A recent webinar ‘From surviving to thriving’ was held by Lighthouse Psychology. http://www.lighthousepsychology.ie It was set up to enable parents to speak about challenges that they might be facing since lockdown measures began. The webinar also provided a forum where possible solutions to identified difficulties could be explored.
The most significant issue that parents reported was a gradual lowering of their teenager’s mood over the last few weeks. Mood dips have been accompanied by a reduction of their children’s motivation levels, particularly for school work. This loss of motivation is very closely linked to a loss of connection with their friends. At first glance this is confusing. It’s fair to say that older children and teenagers have never been better connected due to all the social media platforms available to them. Therein lies the problem. Communication via Whats App, FaceTime and Messenger does not work for any sustained period. It is fine as an addition to normal contact with friends. In isolation, it is not enough.
The information provided by parents also resonates with psychologist/therapist observations at CTP and Lighthouse. Older children and teenagers are feeling a sense of disconnection and loss. As one teenager put it, “We have a laugh on Whats App”, “It’s a bit of craic”, ” We are not being ourselves, they don’t see the real me”. It is clear that normally many childhood and adolescent woes are discussed face to face or between several friends. This happens informally while they are engaged in other activities. Peers are vital. Peers provide a frame of reference; a mirror if you will, a mirror where the emerging self is reflected back. This is an important process in identity development. It might seem dramatic, but consider this, children are beginning to feel a profound sense of disconnection and loss. The necessary confines of lockdown has, for many led to a sense of isolation and confusion about their identity.
What can help?
A very interesting finding described by one of the participants was this; her son’s community college have been providing a weekly assembly via Zoom. This has been a weekly lifesaver. Pupils groups are able to visually see each other on the screen, for a few minutes. The cohesion of the group, albeit virtually, provides a sense of normality. Importantly, pupils can wave and gesture to each other for a few seconds before the assembly starts. They are able to see that their friends are well and coping. This simple arrangement becomes a focal point in their week. A simple and brief rejoining of the ties that define them. Virtual assemblies cannot span the void but they are able to provide a little more support at this difficult time. Congratulations to those schools who are already doing this. The boost to mental health and motivation is immense.
Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard Chartered Consultant Psychologist, Clinical Director CTP Ltd and Lighthouse Psychology Ireland