Psychologists Say School-Age Children Are Hitting A 'Pandemic Wall'

It's no secret that the pandemic has been hard on all of us. We've been dealing with the most viral, unpredictable, and terrifying virus the modern world has ever known for an entire year now, and we definitely bear the scars of that experience.

Whether you lost your job to lockdowns, suffered severe mental or personal setbacks, or perhaps even battled the virus yourself, the pandemic has, in one way or another, touched all of us.

But psychologists are now saying that one year on, it's our children who are having the hardest time coping, and who are hitting what they've dubbed to be the so-called "pandemic wall."

All around the world, school-age kids are being stripped of their worry-free childhoods and forced to try to handle this new "normal" that isn't very normal at all.


As CNN reported, these children are not experiencing the same adolescent years the rest of us did. Their lives are now riddled with social distancing measures, difficult Zoom classes, isolation, and most of all, fear.

Experts say the problem doesn't lie with the fact that their lives have changed at all. It's that this change has now been normalized. The result? Cognitive overload.

Since the pandemic began, Leslie Forde, founder of Mom's Hierarchy of Needs, has surveyed or interviewed more than 1,600 families about the effect it's had on school-age children.


"Our brains are sick of it," Forde told CNN of her findings. "There's a certain amount of disconnect between what happened when we suddenly pulled kids out of school and thought it was temporary to where we are today. I don't think anyone has healed from or reconciled that disconnect. I think it's been hardest on our kids."

The truth is children can only cope with so much change and disappointment in their lives before it all becomes too much to handle.

Unsplash | thom masat

"Especially younger kids — they don't know how to label and process the way they feel," said Jaleel K. Abdul-Adil, associate professor of clinical psychology in psychiatry at The University of Illinois at Chicago. "So many of these pandemic restrictions are abstract, and kids have a tough time understanding that."

What's happening is these children are becoming overloaded with difficult issues or realities that they simply aren't prepared to face. And when they reach their breaking point, they hit that pandemic wall.

Jennifer Kelman, a clinical social worker and family therapist based in Florida, said kids are processing the loss of their childhood much like we might deal with the five stages of grief.

Unsplash | Chinh Le Duc

That is, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. However, she suggests children are becoming stuck in the anger or depression stages.

"It's almost as if the hope and wonderment that kids walk around with naturally has dimmed because [the pandemic] hasn't ended for them yet," Kelman told CNN. "Their sense of time is different than our sense of time as adults. They live their lives in a series of events: practice, dance recital or someone's party."

"None of those things have happened normally in a year."

In an effort to help children cope, Kelman suggests adults allow them to verbalize their grief, and discuss the situation with them without sugarcoating it.

Unsplash | CDC

"It's deeper than just having Mom or Dad acknowledge, 'This stinks' — you also need to ask, 'How does this stink for you?'" she said. "Give them the opportunity to let their feelings out. We're doing our kids a disservice when we forget that they have feelings of their own."

It may also prove beneficial to reminisce with your children about life before COVID, as well as regularly check-in on how they're coping with everything.

The world looks different, but we shouldn't allow our children to bear the brunt of this change all on their own. Much like with any other major change in their young lives, it's best to help them deal with it and offer them the kind of support they may, and likely will require.

h/t: CNN

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