The Silent Pandemic – Depression

On March 9, 2021, my son approached us to have a conversation. It was near bedtime, so we thought that he was looking for a way out of going to bed. We were not sure what to expect, but whatever it was, it was troubling him. He said he felt sad and depressed. I do not think any parent is prepared to hear those words. My mind danced but what I heard and appreciated was his call for help and the fact that he had approached us. 

The Monotony Of Online School

We decided to dig a bit. We are not professionals, but I have read a bit, and from my anxiety attack episodes, I had ideas about where to start. We asked him why he felt sad and depressed. He said doing the same thing at home and doing online school was boring. We spoke from about 8 pm to 11 pm that night. He bared his soul.

The Origin of His Sadness

His sadness started on March 8, 2021, and he had reached his breaking point. As his parents, whatever we were doing for him to keep him engaged and distracted had lasted just one year. 

The Things That He Misses

He described the previous summer as the best time ever. We had done something different every day, and he wanted to do that again. He wanted to get out more. Mind you, he was the one that was reluctant to go out last summer, that wanted to stay in all the time, and I had never really pushed him.

The Signs – Slipping Grades

He was an A and B student, and he slipped to Bs and Cs, I should have noticed. He wants to go back to in-person school, but he has a fear of contracting the virus. We decided that he would continue this school year at home and start school in September. He needs face-to-face interactions with his friends at school.

The Silent Pandemic - slipping grades

Strangely enough, the opposite is happening with our daughter Anayah. She is thriving with online school; she is now an A and B student. Anayah is in a happy place being home all the time and having school online is her utopia.

Our Plan To Help Our Son

Brent and I made mental notes of what he said he wanted, and we have started to implement them. We usually bike in the summer, but we pulled it forward to the Spring. We took him and his sisters to the park for the first time in a year last weekend, and they had a ball. 

The Silent Pandemic - outdoor time lifts the spirits
Virtual Playdate

He played video games this weekend with some of his best buds that he had not connected with for some time; he enjoyed and appreciated that interaction.

We did a pizza day during the week instead of the weekend to mirror what he had at school; we ordered his favourite meal. We were trying to break the monotony.

What He Wants To Do

He loves going to Toronto on the GO Train, we have done this quite a few times, but I never knew he appreciated it that much. He wants to go to the Aquarium and then have lunch at a restaurant in the city. He also wants to visit the CN tower, the ROM, the Science Center, and the Toronto Waterfront.

I had started planning our summer outings already but now I had to make a few changes to accommodate his demands – anything for my son’s health and wellbeing.

The Silent Pandemic – The Mental Health Pandemic

There is a silent pandemic running parallel with COVID; it is the mental health pandemic. I heard about it and had my anxiety about it, but I am not sure why I thought that somehow the kids would not be affected. I thought we were following the guidelines where keeping the children occupied was concerned. We were already keeping the routines in place. However, when I did a trace, I realized that during the second lockdown an important routine had been discontinued. Eli’s soccer club had closed its doors. That may have been a tipping point. Soccer was his outlet. We also stayed in much more. We did go out in our yard but did not venture further. 

The Silent Pandemic anxiety

I saw my son’s eyes get dull; there is usually a spark in his eyes. It was frightening. It was like I could not reach him. I did some research and found a child psychologist. As an emergency measure, I have her number stored.

Prayer And Work Changes Everything

I told him to remember his time of crisis, prayer and work can change things. We are keeping an eye on him and having more conversations about feelings, being afraid, and the ability to know what we have control of. I am reading Rising Strong by Brené Brown, and it is helping me a lot during this time to help him navigate. We let him know how brave we think he is to have approached us with such a sensitive subject. He has already started to improve.

I have eased up the reins on homework and so on. I am not pushing Eli as much. He still must complete his schoolwork on time, but removing the extra work that I would give him after school has given him time for some light reading for his book club. This will be his gap year – a year to focus on his health.

My advice to parents:

  • Keep an eye on your children – look for changing behaviour.
  • Try to maintain a schedule.
  • Question them from time to time about their feelings about the pandemic, about the changes, about how the tasks are affecting them. 
  • Give them endless love.
  • Try to get outdoors as much as you can.
  • Find resources to help you navigate this situation.
The Silent Pandemic - a little advice
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21 Replies to “The Silent Pandemic”

  1. Great article! “There is a silent pandemic running parallel with COVID; it is the mental health pandemic. I heard about it and had my anxiety about it, but I am not sure why I thought that somehow the kids would not be affected.”

    You highlighted this pandemic and how it affects everyone especially children. Being an educator and having seen the affects Covid and lockdowns had on children, I greatly appreciate your highlighting of the importance of their mental health! I loved the article.

    1. Thank you so much for your feedback. I am happy that you loved it. It was such a scary time for us. I closely monitor Eli to this day, but now that we are out and about again, his spirits are soaring.

  2. I can’t imagine having kids while going through a pandemic. Hugs to you both! I had to adjust to working from home initially and not being used to not having day-to-day human interactions. It’s so interesting how your two kids reacted to online school. I hated working virtually at first, and now I dread going back into the office!

    1. It was challenging to keep them distracted, and it was heartbreaking when Eli was affected the way he was. But thankfully, things have opened up somewhat, and we can travel with fewer restrictions.

      I know the feeling of dreading going back to the office. I love working from home, but it got to be a little challenging with the kids home.

  3. I understand you. Online school is not for all kids. There are ups and downs with this type of learning system that many of us have had to implement with our kids. We have to look for safe options to keep them learning while taking care of their mental health. Thanks!

  4. This is such a great article and reminder that not only is the virus affecting us physically but there is a lot of fringe effects as well. Mental health is a huge one. Glad Eli reached out for help and you all are making adjustments. A reminder also that children are different, some have thrived doing online school and some have not and will not. We were not created equal. Love it.

    1. A physical wound can easily be healed but the mental one, the unseen one, yea like you said it’s huge. We are glad that he reached out too and the adjustments are helping us all. When we are out now, it’s like I am appreciating every second in that space and time with him and his sisters. I cannot even explain it.

      With regards to our children being different, girl. Anayah does not want to hear about going back to school in September, so if online is an option again, she may very well be here with us. Fun times.

  5. Wow! This one touched me, as a mom who is trying my best to maintain some sort of “normalcy ” it’s sad reading this.
    I am so happy Eli was able to open up and speak to you both. You are an amazing mom Malaika keep you the hard work. Nuff love to the family. Xo

    1. Thank you my dear. Normal as we know it is a distant image, just blurred. We are happy that he spoke up when he did and it was like a weight lifted off him. He’s doing so much better now.

  6. Children are really small people and come with the same emotions as adults. This is an eye opener for me though. It is good that you guys have created the environment that he feels comfortable enough to share his burden. In families that are eking out a living, issues such as this may well be flying under the radar while at the same time doing irreparable damage. Thanks for a good read Malaika

    1. Thank you for your feedback Rhonda. I am happy that he spoke up as well before it escalated. It is a learning curve for us because we are all guilty of not always considering how our children feel. My heart goes out to families that have these issues flying under the radar.

  7. This really touched me. It mirrored a lot of what was going on in my own home. None of my kids thrived in the home schooling environment, they are all very social animals. We tried to do as many outings as we could given the current state of living in lockdowns but it still was not enough. I have sent them all back out to brick and mortar and they are so much happier and thriving. Especially Katelyn who was not doing half her homework or even paying attention in classes when she was in virtual school. She would log into class for my benefit and as soon as I am gone would be on roblox or minecraft, now Katelyn is so proud to bring home her work to show me all her check marks or to say she was first to finish and was awarded a prize by the teacher…. mannn reading all that made me get in my feelings lol… thank you so much for sharing Malikah.

    1. Yes, the distractions are there as well. Youtube is numero uno for Eli. I am happy that your girls are doing better. I’m happy that Katie is having a great time at in-person school. There are so many dynamics to navigate where the pandemic is concerned. I guess we just have to continue to do our best for ourselves and our littles.

  8. Wow oh wow! Yes children are affected by the pandemic and the new way of life more than we think they do. We often say kids are adaptable but every one is different. I remember when my eldest niece was four and her parents moved to a new country she took a while to adjust in fact I was so amazed at how she rebelled against the sudden change. One day she told her parents that they didn’t ask her if she wanted to move. Big lesson learnt children aren’t as adaptable to changes as we always think. They are like us with the same choices and feelings etc. If it’s extremely hard on us as adults, just think about how hard it must be on them as kids. I am so grateful to God that your son reached out to you guys in time. Just shows that you guys are doing a great job at parenting. Not many children feel that they have this luxury of talking to their parents about how they truly feel. Keep praying for him, keep monitoring him. I applaud the efforts you and your husband have taken to improve how he feels and pray that God continues to guide and give wisdom as you continue to parent your kiddos. It’s always a pleasure to read your work. It always shows me what I can do different to improve my relationship with family and those around me. Keep doing you boo.

    1. An entire book can be written on the pandemic and its consequences. It’s leaving a lot of debris in its wake. I am really happy that Eli felt comfortable enough to open up to us before his feelings escalated. Just recently we were having a conversation on praying against seen and unseen forces. The sadness that he described was definitely unseen before it raised its head.

      With regards to your niece, that conversation she had with her parents about them not asking her if she wanted to move. That’s powerful. I think as parents we are all guilty of making changes sometimes without considering our littles. I will make sure I get better at including them when we are planning something major.

      Thank you for always reading and always providing feedback.

  9. Malaika,I absolutely agree. I was not prepared to hear my toddler tell us that she was depressed from being at home. It is a work in progress but honest conversation is needed to address the mental health issues. Love the steps you have taken and we are trying something similar. We also incorporated the dressing up for school and spinning around the neighbourhood before online classes; online dance and other classes and more dedicated family time with extended family members.

    1. I am happy that she expressed herself and you guys are doing what it takes to accommodate. When he first told us the next day I was a huge mess. I started blaming myself and I felt a little sad myself but I had to pull myself together to be the pillar of strength that he needed. Existing during these times is a pull on all our emotional resources.

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