We are embarking on 2021, with all the surprises that came with 2020 in the rearview, still finding ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic thanks to COVID-19. At this point, we have been on a rollercoaster of emotions for months, trying hard to stay afloat with finances, online learning and, most importantly, good health. We have graciously asked our children to understand the crisis while, also, asking them to go months without seeing their friends, family members or any hint of the normal they once knew. After a while, this can get exhausting for anyone, even our children. This is known as COVID-19 fatigue, a mental and physical feeling that is brought on by trying to adjust to a new way of living due to a pandemic.
Signs of COVID-19 Fatigue
The most common signs of COVID-19 fatigue, in people of all ages, are increased anxiety, depression and irritability. Another common sign, especially in children, is the increase in physical fatigue and the lack of wanting to try new things or participate in normal family activities or online schooling.
Other signs that signal COVID-19 fatigue include:
- A short-tempered nature
- Difficulty making basic decisions
- Avoidance of daily tasks
- Disconnection from family and friends
- Feeling as though they are stuck in a “mental fog”
- Stomach aches
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
The symptoms that come with this feeling can range in severity from minor to severe but should be monitored and addressed promptly. If the symptoms of COVID-19 fatigue are affecting daily tasks and feelings a visit to the doctor or a mental health professional is highly recommended.
Coping Mechanisms for COVID-19 Fatigue
Communication is key when it comes to addressing and understanding your child’s feelings and worries about the pandemic. Talk to your child daily, and openly, about their feelings, whether good, bad or indifferent.
Another essential element to help children win out over COVID-19 fatigue is to create and uphold a consistent routine. Routines create structure, balance and a sense of security, especially during uncertain times. Children are less likely to feel panicked or worried if they know what the day ahead will look like each day. Allow some flexibility in the type of activities they participate in to foster happiness and excitement, but keep the bones of the routine in place.
Other ways to cope include:
- Take brain breaks from excessive screen time. With all of us having to pivot our daily tasks to online platforms, little ones can get overwhelmed with the increase in screen time. Encourage your children to take a 20-minute break after every hour they are using a screen. Cut back on the amount of time they use screens for “free time” since the amount they are using it for other activities has increased.
- Stay active as a family. Add a block of active time to your daily schedules and participate in your planned activity as a family. Find fun and safe ways to get in 30 minutes (or more) of exercise a day. From a walk around the neighborhood to a fun pickup game of soccer in the park, you can find safe ways to have fun and stay active. If the weather is good, get outside and soak up the Vitamin D, a natural mood booster and immunity defense.
- Maintain structured sleep and wake times. Set a wake and bedtime for the weekdays that correlate directly with their online school schedules. Make it a little more fun by letting them choose their sleep times on the weekends and allowing them to sleep in.
- Encourage free play. With all of the pressures of online learning, zoom calls and structured timelines, free play is important too. Encourage them to have some alone time to play with their favorite toys, snuggle in with a fun, easy read or play with the family pet. Whatever makes them happiest in their free time should be allowed and encouraged (within reason).
- Eat healthy meals together. Healthy food is good for the mind and body. Opt for at-home meals that provide a healthy balance of nutrients for your growing child. Eating together as often as possible creates a level of stability they need during the uncertainty and a time to talk freely together as a family.
Although we, as parents, feel the weight of the pandemic on our shoulders, we cannot forget how it affects our children. Last year, their worlds were flipped upside down rather quickly, thrown into online classrooms, required to stay home and social distance. All of these abrupt changes can cause COVID-19 fatigue, so, stay alert and help them through it with a structured routine and healthy coping mechanisms, and, if they are struggling don’t hesitate to seek help from a medical professional.