On children, teenagers, and lockdowns

All over the world people are facing the consequences of social distancing and isolation, many are dealing with loneliness and depression, but we mustn’t forget that the youngest in our families are suffering just as much.

The measures that have been put in place to combat COVID-19 change from country to country, in Bolivia and particularly in my city Sucre, lockdown is not over, we’re currently living under a “dynamic lockdown” the contradiction is not lost on me, this means that you can do whatever you need to do until 2 or 3 p.m., then everyone goes back home until the next day and you’re not allowed to go out on the weekends. This measure also restricts who’s allowed to go out, children under age and adults over 65, are not supposed to leave their houses.

This had and will continue to have effects on the overall wellbeing of all. However, adults have to go out now, they might not have the same schedule as they did, but are going out regularly, children and teenagers on the other hand, hardly go out of their houses, unless is something unavoidable like a doctor’s appointment and…that’s pretty much it, some children go out to play on the street in their neighborhoods, which done with caution can be a good alternative to having children locked up, but it can be quite dangerous too, I have noticed that children around my neighborhood go out to play among neighbors, as we know, children can be asymptomatic spreaders of the disease, and can be taking it to their houses, children, after all, don’t social distance while they play and they don’t use masks.

In other cases, parents aren’t allowing children and teenagers to go out at all, if your child is 15 or older they might go out to help with the bags at the supermarket (which is illegal now, but people still do it), but they don’t go anywhere else, and many small children don’t even go to their doors, many live in small houses or small apartments. Some children haven’t go out since March or gone out once or twice since then.

The isolation and imprisonment are being reflected in children’s behavior; parents are back to work so they don’t have that much time to entertain their kids, they have to find their ways to stay active and happy, most are turning to social media to get some human interaction, as helpful as this is, it’s simply not the same as face to face contact. Teenagers especially are at a stage where they are molding their character, acquiring knowledge not just of what’s taught in the classroom but of social cues, they’re learning the basics of adult interaction. Now that the school year has prematurely ended in my country, many teenagers are dealing with having all the free time and no activity to fill that time, this can create a lot of anxiety and depression, which they were already exposed to, and the longer they are forced to stay home, the more repercussions there will be on their mental health, and development.

Small children are also struggling with this situation, children had just begun the school year when classes were suspended, children entering primary school were supposed to learn to read and write, but as important as that, they were building social interaction skills, the same goes for pre-school students. They’re were setting rules and routines for everyday life, all of this progress stopped, and now they’re trapped in their homes, parents are running out of ideas to keep their kids entertained, they fight day to day with their toddlers, and are now appreciating their kids’ teachers. And as hard as this is for the parents, it’s as difficult for the kids, small children are also dealing with anxiety and they can’t pinpoint why that is, they are aware of their changed circumstances, but they don’t know why and don’t expect for things to change, they deal with the stress by putting on hissy fits.

The outlook is worrying, it seems like things will remain as they are for months at least, so parents, educators, and psychologists have to find ways to alleviate the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty that these lockdowns are producing in children and teenagers, we must work together to find safe solutions, such as supervised outings, outdoor social distanced friend gatherings, and others.

I believe it’s not healthy to keep children caged, I understand that them being outside is dangerous but measures can be put in place to protect them, measures thought for all ages. As for teenagers, they need to be taught and understand the reasons behind these restrictions so they can also protect themselves and be allowed to have some freedom to go outside. 

I know it’s scary to even think about children going outside, but we must also recognize that adults are finding ways to adapt and protect themselves from this virus. We should also look for solutions for our children, actual solutions, not just locking them up until there’s a vaccine.