It’s no surprise that half a year of teaching our children to stay away from other people has made them more scared of other people. And doctors say this is translating to actual, diagnosable anxiety. Dr. Mary Ellen Renna, a pediatrician in Jericho, NY, has noticed “a rapid increase in anxiety disorders in children,” and notes that “the sudden changes of not being able to go to school or go out and see friends has an impact on us all, but especially the children who are too young to have an understanding of what is happening.”
Dr. Sara Kopple, a pediatrician in New Rochelle, NY, agrees: "Teaching kids that intimacy with your peers is bad and pathologizing it will be hard to undo,” she says, noting that she’s seen this anxiety manifest physically: “There’s been a real increase in bladder and bowel issues in my practice. I think it’s because it’s one of the few areas where small kids have complete control.”
What can parents do? Open communication, mindfulness and generally reminding our kids that it’s our job to keep them safe. But, to some extent, the anxiety of 2020 is unavoidable. “Now that we're asking so many schools and districts to open back up, there will be a lot of push-back, anxiety and fear,” Dr. Lockhart maintains.