As the new school year rapidly approaches, we're just starting to see the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on kids. A survey of 1,000 parents conducted by the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago finds 71% believe the pandemic has taken a toll on their child's mental health, and 65% believe mental health consequences will be greater for children than adults. "We are hearing that parents are often going to their pediatricians and saying I'm concerned, because they haven't had some of the resources they've been used to having," says Colleen Cicchetti, child psychologist at Lurie Children's.
The greatest health concern parents cited from the pandemic was social isolation. "We heard from people who wish they had allowed their kids more time to socialize," says Cicchetti. "I think they're concerned about some of the developmental aggression or falling back that kids have had because they haven't been out."
The survey finds 68% of parents say they prioritized social distancing for their child too much over mental health and proper socializing. On the positive side, 87% of parents say they spent more quality time with their children during the pandemic.
The other top concerns cited by parents about the pandemic were too much screen time for their kids, and problems with remote learning. That leaves questions heading into this fall, with most schools returning to in-person learning after poor results from last year's virtual learning. "There's a lot of anticipation and anxiety about what coming back is going to look like," says Cicchetti. "Are kids going to be socialized and ready to learn? Many parents reported more time on screens, but also less structure at home about things like bedtime, food, exercise."
"We usually have that certain back-to-school structure that we normally return to in August and September," she continues. "I think there's a lot of questions this year about what does it all look like, and are kids ready?"