How children are coping with the pandemic and how we can help

The Covid-19 crisis over this past year has in many ways consumed us—our time, conversations, imaginations, and our lives. Through the pandemic, we have commended many groups of people who have sacrificed for their communities. Health practitioners on the front lines, educators, and essential workers are heroes in our collective consciousness.

But there is one group of people who are largely unacknowledged for their contributions to limiting the spread of the virus: children.

For the duration of the pandemic, children have been and continue to be separated from loved ones and friends. Their childhood has been interrupted and important activities that help them develop mentally and emotionally, like school and play, have been put on hold.

The University of Tasmania in Australia has recently published their research on children and Covid-19 and their findings can open our eyes to how children are coping with the pandemic and can teach us how to support children during this trying time.

The international study includes children aged seven to 12 from the UK, Spain, Canada, Sweden, Brazil, and Australia. 49 children were from Tasmania and 390 were based internationally. 

Once the children were recruited, they were asked questions about their understanding of the virus and where they access information about it. As was expected, there were many similarities across the different countries in what children had to say and what they wanted to know about the pandemic.

Over half the children involved in the study felt they know a lot or quite a bit about Covid-19, and that they primarily got their information from their parents and teachers, though they also spoke to their friends about it or picked some information up from TV shows, the internet, and social media.

Here are some of their comments:

It is a stupid virus.

It spreads really quickly.

People play it down and tell me it can’t kill people, but I know people are dying each day.

Some of the common questions were:

How and where did it start?

What does the coronavirus actually look like?

How does it make you poorly?

Some did not want to hear about the virus anymore, saying it is boring, or flat out saying that they don’t want to know because it makes them sad. Other emotions children associate with the virus are: “worried”, “scared”, “angry”, and “confused”.

For the most part, children also understood why they were being asked to stay at home, and also learned the meanings of relevant words and terms such as social distancing and needing to stay home “to save lives”.

Having a greater understanding of how children are processing this specific time in our history will help us provide a better learning environment for them. One where they feel free to ask questions. Many of the children’s emotions mirror our own and we urge you to thank the children who happen to cross your path for their efforts. Their contributions should certainly not be taken for granted, and they should be able to access a safe space where they can let out their frustrations and ask questions about the virus itself or aspects of life during the pandemic. If you’re looking for more resources to help the young ones in your life, check out our guide on reducing children’s pandemic stress.

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