According to the researchers, the coronavirus wreaks havoc on the body and mind, and guardians need to know how their children are dealing.
There is a common misconception that children are more likely to recover from a difficult experience, but a new report by the London-based advocacy group, the Childhood Trust, sheds light on how disadvantaged and marginalized children are especially susceptible to trauma and post-traumatic stress as a result of a global pandemic.
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Speaking to the BBC, Laurence Guinness, the organization’s executive director, anecdotally states that many children have had “vivid nightmares” of illness and death during the outbreak, a symptom of PTSD.
“The increase in the number of deaths is reported every day; these children have seen it all and internalized it,” he said.
The report describes several ways that restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are having a greater impact on children at risk.
“We have made a direct commitment to children and families living in poverty and who have been seriously affected by this crisis,” says the report. “Families who were already enduring difficult and challenging lives have had to survive confinement in the most dire circumstances. For children in poverty, the crisis has multiplied the impact of the adversities they endure, such as hunger, fear, isolation and stigma. “
Factors such as domestic abuse and poor access to food, education, health care, and recreation are amplified by measures of social distancing and the economic recession at times as dire as these. Social distancing makes it more difficult for parents to seek medical treatment for their children, while poverty and hunger are made worse by an economic recession.
Dr. Adam Brown, an assistant clinical professor in the NYU Langone Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, described the signs of traumatic stress in a recent article.
“Concern, confusion or sadness” would be expected during a “terrifying” event, says Brown. But some “emotional and behavioral reactions may indicate traumatic stress,” which could lead to post-traumatic stress in the future. He says that “current stressors,” meaning the outbreak, “are ongoing.”
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Brown focuses on younger children, ages 10 and under, in his own report, noting symptoms like intrusive thoughts and nightmares; anxious behaviors such as bed wetting and irritability; inability to concentrate or forgetfulness; and physical manifestations of fear, such as stomach pain and difficulty sleeping.
For most children who show traumatic stress, “these symptoms will likely resolve in a few days or weeks, while some may have a more lasting impact,” says Brown. But if a child needs treatment it can be difficult to determine during a protracted event, such as the current pandemic, “so if in doubt, see a professional,” she writes.
This article originally appeared in the New York Post.