When Lynn Zakeri learned that her two sons would be missing out on the fall of their freshman and senior years of high school amid the pandemic, the licensed clinical social worker was concerned about how they’d cope with another setback. Her youngest son already missed his eighth-grade graduation in the spring, and her eldest had spent months training for his upcoming varsity soccer season.
Zakeri felt heartbroken for them, but when she asked how they felt about the news, she was pleasantly surprised by their optimistic attitudes. After all, according to a recent systematic review in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, children and adolescents are at higher risk of experiencing feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of isolation from peers, teachers, and extended family.
When it comes to our children’s mental health, we can’t really see their internal states—that’s why it’s important to ask and listen rather than simply assume we know how they feel, Zakeri says. “I think always playing the role of questioner is better than us playing the role of the definer.”