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Effect of long term isolation/social distancing on young children

26 replies

MrStateTrooper · 21/03/2020 07:43


I'm not really expecting any answers to my questions here, but I've been having a lot of anxiety about this (and many other things), and thought it might help to write down my thoughts and gauge the opinion of others.

Our self - isolating household consists of myself, DH and DD, who is 3. Up until recently DD attended nursery, as well as being looked after by my MIL once a week. She saw extend family (MIL, FIL, SIL and my niece) on a regular basis, and had a fantastic relationship with them. She was just starting to form friendships with her classmates, and would regularly talk about her 'best friend'. She's pretty friendly, and whenever we went to the park would find another kid to talk to and play with.

All of that has now stopped, of course, and that is the way it needs to be for now. I totally understand that, and we are following the rules of social distancing strictly.

But I can't help but feel some concern over how this will effect DD when she is at an age where she's starting to form those social bonds, and learn how people interact. DH and I are doing our best to be enough for her, but I'm also working from home and feel guilty that I can't always play with her.

I realise that she's at an age where friendships are fickle, and she might not have even remembered her 'best friend' in a few months anyway, but it breaks my heart when she asks me where she is Sad. Kids need other kids don't they? Skype or whatever is just not the same, as she tends to lose interest in the screen.
And it looks like we're in this for the long haul Sad

I'd be interested to hear other people's thoughts on this, and if you have any reassuring words, then please share them!

OP posts:
Lycidas · 21/03/2020 07:51

Just to day I feel the same and would also appreciate others’ perspectives.

OddshoesOddsocks · 21/03/2020 07:52

I have wondered this too. No one has ever kept a whole generation of kids apart before so we can’t know what will happen afterwards!

I have a nearly 9 and 4 year old. The eldest is getting an iPod for her birthday next week and I’ve been collecting the Apple IDs of her friends in secret so they can text and FaceTime which will be a blessing. Not the same but will mean a lot at this time I think.

The 4 year old I don’t know. She’s very sociable and has loved her first term and a bit at school. The school has an app where they can send pictures and messages to their teacher which is lovely and I hope they use it. I think when her friends send photos of pictures to each other we’ll have to photograph them holding it so that they remember each others faces, breaks my heart but I don’t think she’ll remember otherwise!
We’re in a small village and have all agreed to chalk pavements/leave pictures and painted rocks around for each other to find which is lovely but, again, not the same.

I’d like to think that it won’t be too long, they’ll be back before summer with loads to tell. That’s what I’m clinging on to anyway!!

ZeroOneOneTwoThree · 21/03/2020 07:56

Also wondering this, but with a seven month old baby. I worry about the impact on his social development. We are a vulnerable household so have been and will continue to prevent all non-essential social contacts.

sonypony · 21/03/2020 08:06

I've been worrying about this too. The mental health effects of lack of socialisation and boredom for such a long period of time. I have a toddler and a 6 year old. I'm going to try and get the eldest video calling friends but so far other parents aren't very interested, it seems. I'm hoping this is because of the current stress and when things have settled down and they're more bored they might! I think that when it all goes back to normal most of them will be in the same boat and it'll take a while to get back in the swing of things, but they'll all bounce back pretty quickly I hope. I'm not sure what else we can do re.socialising at this age range of not having a phone and socialising independently.

MrStateTrooper · 21/03/2020 08:06

It's a worrying time isn't it? But at least your kids have each other, which must be some comfort?

Unfortunately I don't have the contact details of the other parents from nursery, otherwise I was going to start a WhatsApp group. I was going to ask nursery to pass on my details, but god knows they 'll be busy enough and have now to worry about right now.

OP posts:
OddshoesOddsocks · 21/03/2020 08:21

It is, I’m hoping that this experience will strengthen their —nonexistent— strained bond and definitely help them bond with their new sister who’s due in a few weeks. There are many, many positives if you choose to find them really.

I think it’s worth asking the nursery, they might be able to set up a Facebook group for parents if nothing else?

MrStateTrooper · 21/03/2020 08:22

I think at 7 months old you still your baby's while world, and they will be happy spending lots of one on one time with you. Up until the age of about 2, DD really didn't take much notice of other kids, except to notice that they were there. I hope they gives some reassurance?

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MrStateTrooper · 21/03/2020 08:22

*that, not they

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MrStateTrooper · 21/03/2020 08:24

@OddshoesOddsocks, I've just sent an email asking if they could pass on my details to the other parents. Who knows, maybe they have something planned anyway. I feel like I've got to try something!

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okiedokieme · 21/03/2020 08:27

Firstly nobody knows but they only parallel I can think of is that kids grow up very isolated in places like Australia and are educated remotely. If it's only for a few weeks then I can not imagine a long term harmful effect, and if cases level off they may change the guidance for all bar the most vulnerable. You need to make judgement calls based on your circumstances, for instance I'm carrying on working because it's helping others, my kids are walking peoples dogs and helping fetch shopping so not isolated completely

Bubbinsmakesthree · 21/03/2020 08:32

I’m really worried about this too. I feel fortunate that i have two boys fairly close in age who get on well (mostly) but they’re too young (5 and 3) to be able to get what they need from virtual contact.

I really feel for only children, it’ll be tough.

Practically speaking I think for young children it’ll be important to play at their level a lot - goofing about, playing tag, imaginative play, just letting them take the lead...basically behaving like kids instead of parents some of the time.

namemypuppyplz · 21/03/2020 08:38

I feel the same, I'm finding it really upsetting

footprintsintheslow · 21/03/2020 08:42

We are in wales and go to welsh language mother and baby groups. These are his online. There may be something similar in English

OddshoesOddsocks · 21/03/2020 08:46

@MrStateTrooper, fingers crossed they can help you! It’d be a shame to let those friendships go. I bet a lot of the parents are feeling the same

Skeeter2020 · 21/03/2020 08:48

Really worrying - probably very damaging I'd imagine. Especially for children 3/4 years old

happystory · 21/03/2020 09:03

Preschool worker here. Very worried about this, especially those that will go to school in September. We usually spend the summer term preparing them for school, and it's a vital time for social development.

clunkyinthebackend · 21/03/2020 09:07

This is the thing that is upsetting me the most DC is an only child, preschool and usually has loads of contact with other kids, he’s really outgoing and sociable. The thought of him not seeing other kids for 12 weeks breaks my heart

MrStateTrooper · 21/03/2020 09:40

I suppose all we can do is use the technology we have to mitigate the damage as much as possible. And try and put it in the context that it's, hopefully, only for a few months out of the rest of their lives and that there's plenty of time for them to bounce back afterwards. I will be taking DD to every club /group activity going after this!

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MrStateTrooper · 21/03/2020 09:47

We have a large back drying green (Scottish tenement here), that is totally fenced off, and no one else uses. I'm wondering if it would be ok (after our 2 weeks are up) to have one of DDs friends round to play out the back, on the condition we don't let them cuddle, we only have one other adult there (eg it would be me, DD, DD friend and DD mum), they don't go inside together, and we're very strict on hand washing and wiping down equipment. Or is that wishful thinking? Friend I'm thinking of lives within walking distance, so no public transport needed.

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Waxonwaxoff0 · 21/03/2020 09:51

I'm also worried about DS. He is 6 and an only child. I've tried so hard to facilitate playdates often so he doesn't get fed up and lonely. He's already upset at the thought of not seeing his friends for so long. We've arranged to do Skype calls with his classmates but it's not the same.

LynnSchmob · 21/03/2020 09:54

I’m interested in this too.
My children are teenagers - the ones old enough for pubs etc are not impressed but understand.
Young children are programmed to want to go out and play and have friends. Do feel sorry for them.

Lemonnhoney · 21/03/2020 09:55

I keep worrying about this too. But honestly, I think if they have 2 loving parents they will be OK. It is for a short amount of time and I am telling myself I'd rather them have to suffer a bit now than to potentially loose someone close to us.

Cockatiel · 21/03/2020 10:01

I'm a little worried about this too. Have a two year old daughter. Twelve weeks I think we could work with, I'm concerned about the impact of longer

TempsPerdu · 21/03/2020 10:17

OP I’ve been wondering (and worrying about) the same; DD is 2 and only started at nursery in January. She had just reached the stage of becoming more sociable and interacting really well with her new ‘friends’, talking about them lots at home. As of Friday it’s just me, DP and her for goodness knows how long.

I’m a former teacher with an interest in child development (studied this and aspects of child psychology as part of an MA). Sadly I can’t see any way that social distancing won’t have an impact on preschool children’s development - it’s all about socialisation and learning through experience at this age. I can envisage some quite severe knock-on effects from this when this cohort starts school in a couple of years - and many children’s communication skills are already below expected levels when they enter Reception. Then there’s the emotional impact of suddenly not seeing wider family - which at DD’s age they can’t understand.

Of course it’s what we all have to do for the greater good right now, and I can imagine just about managing for a few months, six months even - but if we’re talking about a year or more of closed schools and quite extreme social distancing I think the wider negative impact will be huge (for the adult population too).

TempsPerdu · 21/03/2020 10:23

Also in the longer term I think this could sadlylead to quite a lot of intergenerational resentment, as children and younger people are expected to make considerable sacrifices to protect older generations - a combination of altruism and fear will sustain people for a while but if this drags on indefinitely I can see the potential for social unrest.

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