ABC by Paley – ISOLATION
People naturally need to be connected with others. Being able to talk to someone who understands us, listens to us and takes an interest in our lives is important to our well-being. And while the need to spend time with others seems to decrease over the years, there are times in life when the support and closeness of other people is of particular importance.
When a woman is expecting her first child, she can count on the interest of others. Close people and distant friends ask her about her well-being, compliment her on how beautiful she looks, and often promise that they will help with the baby when it comes into the world. And then the baby is born and everything changes. After the first wave of delight with the baby (and not with his mother anymore), a void appears. Friends fade into thin air, promised support does not come, and hope turns into bitter disappointment. And, although the young mother stays with other people 24 hours a day, she feels lonely and separated from the rest of the world. The relationship with the child is not symmetrical. The adult must ensure safety, take responsibility for the child, care for, and pay attention to the child. This can be exhausting, especially when there are no people around to support the primary caregiver. Also, it takes time to recover from birth. Fatigue and being overburdened with new responsibilities may mean that, despite the urgent need to contact other adults, there is simply no energy to organize a meeting at home or going out with friends.
Parents who raise a child with a chronic disease are additionally at risk of isolation. They are more often faced with misunderstanding, deprecating their situation or being avoided by other people who were once close. Loneliness and a sense of isolation can affect the relationships created with children. It would seem that the more time you spend with your baby, the better. However, the caregiver’s well-being is equally important. If he is chronically tired and all decisions and responsibilities are on his shoulders, this can lead to unwanted and guilty behavior towards the child. At the same time, caregivers may experience a drop in self-confidence, their own parenting skills and competences. Isolation and the associated loneliness expose people to sleep difficulties, depressed mood, the onset or worsening of anxiety, and increase the risk of depression. People who experience long-term isolation have a worse ability for remembering new information, learning, and other cognitive processes.
The current pandemic increases the risk of loneliness and isolation among children. For young people who previously went to school, regularly saw friends and attended extracurricular activities, this time is particularly painful. It is worth remembering, however, that there are children who experienced such isolation long before the lockdown began. These are children who face chronic illnesses, are often forced to stay at home or in treatment centers for long periods and cannot participate in lessons and social gatherings. Unfortunately, the lack of friends and regular activities in the peer group exposes young people to emotional problems. And while younger children can do well at home with supportive parents and siblings to play with, teens find it challenging.
For adolescents, the peer group is as important as the family, and parental support may not be enough. And although the first weeks after school closure brought some relief to many young people because the classes were not so intense, and there was no need to meet students they disliked, after some time the lack of face-to-face contact began to be painful. Being closed at home is a factor that increases the fear of going outside, because it deprives us of the possibility of daily interaction with the outside world and taming our anxiety. Young people in this difficult time need even more understanding and support. Reassure them that they can always count on you, that you are there, and that they can come to you with any matter. However, do not be intrusive. Teens need more privacy and independence than younger children – after all, they are slowly entering adulthood. Respect it but stay close. Together, you will survive the hardships of pandemic and growing up.
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