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Newsletter No.9 - Babies and Toddlers’ Mental Health during the Pandemic

Hello, everyone. I hope you all have been keeping safe and well. We, in the UK will see a further ease of lockdown from the beginning of July; I personally appreciate that playgrounds will be open again which is so important for my own, but all children who need to play! In this newsletter, I would like to draw your attention on children’s mental health related to the pandemic.

We all must support young people and children’s wellbeing and reassure their mental health in this difficult time. According to the survey done by the Cambridgeshire Expressive Arts and Counselling Centre (CEAACC) [i], confidence, self-esteem, depression and school related stress have affected 1 out of 4 children and young people due to Covid-19. The article points out that concerning behaviours of children’s such as anger, aggression, meltdowns and tantrums have increased and it is one way that child builds up anxiety and overwhelming feelings.

In my life with the two children, I experienced that my son (2.5 years old), who always wants to go outside, had refused to go outside all of sudden (around lockdown week 8), which was a difficult time for all of us. Before lockdown, we used to stay outside almost the whole day and attend many playgroups. This is the age when child starts to play with other children and learns how to socialise. I also noticed that he became clingier, and sometimes really boisterous. I just thought this was a phase of his age or maybe that of his becoming a big brother. However, when I spoke to some other parents, many of them mentioned the similar behaviours and I thought lockdown must have affected even these tiny people. The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families[ii] explains that babies and toddlers will also experience of various losses such as not being able to see family members or having no contact with playmates. My therapists who run the therapeutic group for babies and toddlers always remind me of the importance of explaining to my son what is happening at the moment regardless he understands or not. Acknowledging child’s reactions is equally important, says Dr. C. Rosa from the Anna Freud Centre.

I think we must remind ourselves that this is a strange situation and sudden and many changes in our life routine are forced upon us. All of these changes have made me feel a “not-good-enough” mother (Winnicott). When I let my son watch TV programs (let’s say after he’s done one or two activities) for whatever reason I have, I feel I am failing. Again the therapists repeatedly reassure me that I shall not be harsh on myself in this unprecedented situation and this is totally OK.

After the dark three months of lockdown, my son finally has been able to play with some kids of the same age together. These have been the happiest moments for both of us. It was almost like as if I was confirming that he likes to play outside and relate to others. Social distancing goes out of window for young ones I must admit. It is a real dilemma that we want young people to socialise each other for their social, emotional, cognitive development, but we must keep everyone safe at all times.

I hope everyone will continue to stay safe and connected with one another in your own way! Thank you for reading this!

*References are at the end of the Japanese text.




 この困難な時期が続く中、私たちは子どもや若者の健康とメンタルヘルスを守る必要があります。Cambridgeshire Expressive Arts and Counselling Centre (CEAACC) [iii]の調査によると、コロナにより子どもと若者の4人に1人が自信や自尊心に影響があり、鬱や学校に関連したストレスを経験しているとのこと。怒り、攻撃行動、ブレイクダウン、かんしゃくなど、無視できない子どもの行動が増え、それは子どもたちが不安や圧倒された気持ちを表す一つの方法であると、この記事は述べている。

 私自身の生活でも、息子に変化が見られた。常に外に行きたがっていた息子(現在2歳半)が突然外に行くのを嫌がりだしたときは非常に難しい時期(ロックダウン8週目ごろから)だった。ロックダウン以前は、毎日のように出歩き、プレイグループなどにアクティブに参加していた。この年齢の幼児は他の子どもと遊ぶことを好むようになり、社会化を学ぶ。しかし、ロックダウンが長く続く中で、息子が普段よりもぐずりだしたり、すごくわめいたりするようになった。それはその年ごろの子どもがすることなのか、お兄ちゃんになったが故なのか、と私は最初思っていたけれども、どうやら彼だけではなかったようだ。他の親とも話をすると同じような行動が見られ、ロックダウンがこの小さな人たちにすごく影響を与えていると実感せざるを得なかった。The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families[iv] (子どもと家族のためのアンナ・フロイトナショナルセンター)の説明によると、赤ちゃんや幼児も、例えば家族に会うことができなかったり、他の子どもたちと遊ぶことができないなど様々な喪失を経験する。息子が理解しようがしまいが、言葉にして今の状況をきちんと説明する重要性を、私たちが参加している幼児用のセラピーグループのセラピストたちは常に私にリマインドしている。先ほどのアンナ・フロイトセンターのDr. Rosaも、おとなが子どもたちの反応を言葉にしてきちんと認識してあげることが大切だと述べている。




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