Kids and Quarantine Fatigue

After months of social distancing, people are starting to feel the effects of “quarantine fatigue,” and the restless desire to head back to normal life is impacting people of all ages. Cynthia Wilson, MD, chief of Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital’s Adolescent Unit, said quarantine fatigue has come up with her patients “almost every day.”

Dr. Wilson said as social creatures, spending time with friends can be a lifeline for adolescents. In addition, school provides structure to their day. With time outside of the classroom, their lives have been upended.

Another factor contributing to quarantine fatigue is the sense of uncertainty over COVID-19. New information continues to be released about the virus, months after The World Health Organization characterized the outbreak as a pandemic. Dr. Wilson said people want to get back to their old routines and the uncertainty over when that will happen is anxiety provoking.

Parents can help their kids by being honest about what’s happening, and by providing them with facts about the pandemic.

“Kids really respond to knowing information and being able to make some decisions around that so that they can understand the background. It is just not the government, or their parents saying they can’t be around their friends,” Dr. Wilson said.

In addition, parents should implement structure at home. Set normal meal times and make sure kids wake up and go to bed on time. Since socialization is key, teens can rely on video calls and social media to connect with their peers. If parents notice their child is withdrawing from others, encourage them to reach out. Some schools may offer virtual groups, while community art centers may offer online classes.

If someone is experiencing significant changes in their mood or behavior, it might be a warning sign that they need additional help. While social distancing continues, it’s important for family and friends to check in on their loved ones.

“Asking questions about people’s mental health, especially if you know that they have some difficulties with mental health, can be really helpful and open up the conversation about how they’re doing,” Dr. Wilson said. “Asking questions about it doesn’t make people think about suicide or make people think about self-harm but it does open up the conversation.”

Learn more about how to deal with COVID-19 Anxiety.