2020-05-28 NIGERIA

Children and lockdown

A Brief Reflection by Br Ifeanyi Mbaegbu, Nigeria, on the Psychological Impact of Covid-19 Lockdown on Children and What Parents Can Do to Help them Cope with the Situation

Br Ifeanyi MbaegbuThe effects of lockdown have been felt by everyone irrespective of age or status; however, the severity has ranged from person to person and has been more severe on some category of people. Children and elderly people appear to have been most vulnerable and ill equipped for the emergency stay at home. The rhythm of life in homes has been affected, especially the households where there are children and elderly people. Active and energetic parents and adults in these homes have not been left out, they have also been thrown out of routine dynamism of life.

The difference between the active adults and children is that adults have life experience and could rationalize faster and were able to come to terms with the situation and adapted to the changes and actively made plans to adjust well right from the onset of the lockdown. Children were not as fortunate; although the beginning might have been exciting for them, the novelty has worn off and some have started displaying behaviours that seemed out of normal. What parents and guardians tell me in my chats with them in recent days is an indication that the psychological effects of the lockdown are telling on their children. Interestingly, some of them could be manifesting the signs in different ways without the cognizance of the parents.

As creatures of habit, we function best when we are in a routine. How this routine looks and how we apply ourselves to it differs from person to person. As we grow older, we consciously and subconsciously develop routines to manage our days and the events of our daily life. Routine and regimented life give us stability and the ability to rationalize change and make adjustments when there is a disruption. Of course, we know very well too that some personality types are thrown off balance and destabilized when there is a change. They are emotionally and psychologically destabilized. When you are emotionally and psychologically unstable, the ability of your body to fight disease and face life challenges is reduced. Adults, first and foremost, need to stay strong and stable amidst all the fears and worries of covid-19 to be able to attend to the emotional and other needs of their children during this period.

Children and lockdown

Coming back to children, children are still in a routine developing phase and do not know how to react to the change of being at home for months without the prospect and plans of going back to school. Not just being at home, but with their parents from morning till night. If, by now, you begin to notice some behavioral changes in your children, they are simply acting out, thus, as parents, you should be able to understand the reasons. One parent told me, “I never knew my son with this kind of conduct”. In reply I said, “Your son never knew you with staying at home with him for months without going to work.” It is, therefore, the parents’ job in this time to guide their children and bring stability and security in their lives during this lockdown.

Lockdown is a complete change in routine and as such has created insecurity in children. Children find security in routine and in rules. Although there is probably not a single child that will admit that he/she loves rules and regulations, but almost all of them do. Rules and regulations provide them with clear cut boundaries, and they rely on the predictability that these rules and regulations provide. In other words, children know that when they operate within the rules, they are safe. As soon as they break a rule, there are consequences. Naturally, it does not mean that they will not test the boundaries. Especially during a time of lockdown, they will try and determine where the boundaries of safety are so that they can determine where the lines of security and safety are. Most parents, who are having conflict with their children during this period of lockdown, are most likely to be those who failed to establish rules/daily program for their children ab initio.

If you have not made rules and regulations for your children before now, the time is now! This will mirror their daily lives at school and will bring normality to their behavior to a very greater extent. If you have a daily routine established already, good and fine; a systematic daily review system is necessary.

It does not matter whether your children are peacefully carrying out their duties with absolute obedience; they are psychologically getting tired. You need to step in and be ever more present both emotionally and physically. Eat at the same time and in the same room. Prayer is an enormously powerful tool in keeping children attached to their parents. Do as many activities as possible together. Discuss their academic work with them and assist them where you can. Also allow them to teach you some video games and other things children do. If they are not engaged by their schools through online teaching, there are a number of trusted individuals offering online lessons for children of all ages this time. Engage one for them if you can.

We are entering into a new phase of staying at home. If you get it right with your children now, even if lockdown lasts for another three months there is high possibility that things will remain right for you and your children.

As new cases of covid-19 is gradually coming down in some places, many countries in the world are scrambling  and making plans on how to recover their economies but nobody is making effort to set up plans on how to recover young people and children who are affected psychologically by the lockdown. We shall pay the price in due course, especially during the first few weeks in school after the end of this unprecedented lockdown, at a time when their bodies will be resisting to adapt again to a highly regimented school life and at the same time struggling with the new ways of relating and associating with their peers and teachers which will be ushered in by covid-19.


Br. Ifeanyi Mbaegbu
26th May 2020

Children and lockdown


Farol de esperança: painel sobre vocação e...


Being Marist in West Central Europe 6...