I woke up after a night of insomnia and a few moments of sleep. Yes, the pandemic has also caused this - insomnia. The ongoing coronavirus crisis has made getting a good night’s rest significantly harder. Some experts even have a term for it: ‘coronasomnia’ or ‘Covid-somnia’. As an example, an “alarming prevalence” of clinical insomnia was observed in Italy, where nearly 40% of respondents in a May (2020) study were shown to have insomnia. Insomnia is one of the biggest risk factors for anxiety attacks and depression.
But it's not only me who has been sleeping poorly. My family - my wife and our two children - also sleep very poorly. Our children, yes, our children, who should be living a light and happy life, playing and interacting happily with their peers, instead they have to live a sort of real nightmare: the pandemic.
I watch their disorientation with sadness. They ask me: “Dad, are we going to school today?” I answer, “No”. And they say: “When are we going back to school?” I don't know what to answer...nobody knows - not even the government. It depends... it depends on many things...
"But we can go to the park later and meet our friends there!' I exclaim. A smile crept onto the children's faces. So, we got ready, with the necessary precautions, to go out: mask, hand sanitizing gel, etc.
When we reach the park, we meet some children from the school. As our children start running to greet their friends, I have to make a quick dash to stop them. With tears in my eyes, I tell them to keep their distance - no hugging. I see their sad and bewildered eyes and that look pierces my heart.
Disease containment of COVID-19 has necessitated widespread social isolation. Recent studies show that children and adolescents are probably more likely to experience high rates of depression and, most likely, anxiety during and after enforced isolation ends. This may increase as enforced isolation continues.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in governments implementing disease containment measures such as school closures, social distancing, and home quarantine. Children and adolescents are experiencing a prolonged state of physical isolation from their peers, teachers, extended families, and community networks. Social distancing and school closures may therefore increase mental health problems in children and adolescents, who are already at higher risk of developing mental health problems compared to adults, at a time when they are also experiencing anxiety over a health threat and threats to family employment and income.
Social distancing and school closures are likely to result in increased loneliness in children and adolescents whose usual social contacts are curtailed by disease containment measures. Loneliness is the painful emotional experience of a discrepancy between actual and desired social contact. Although social isolation is not necessarily synonymous with loneliness, early indications in the COVID-19 context indicate that more than one-third of adolescents report high levels of loneliness, and almost half of 18- to 24-year-olds are lonely during the lockdown.
There are well-established links between loneliness and mental health.
I am still in the park, watching, observing, and reflecting. What future are we handing over to our children? How will they grow up and what consequences will this experience have on their future lives? Almost certainly, this health pandemic will be followed by an equally important psychological and post-traumatic pandemic.
The importance of the early years
The emotional, social and physical development of young children has a direct effect on their overall development and on the adults they will become. The early experiences of children – the bonds they form with their parents and their first learning experiences – deeply affect their future physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development.
Optimizing the early years of children’s lives is the best investment we can make as a society in ensuring their future success.
In the light of these reflections, I ask myself: are we investing enough in our children who are the pillars of our future society? The answer is probably negative. So, the question arises: how would Jesus have reacted to having to take care of our children?
Jesus values children
Throughout his life, Jesus always valued children and repeatedly recommended respecting and protecting them, ‘because their angels constantly see the face of God' (Matthew 18:10). .
The bestselling writer and co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Ellen G. White, expresses the relationship between Jesus and children repeatedly as follows: “Those who love God should feel deeply interested in the children and youth. To them, God can reveal His truth and salvation. Jesus calls the little ones that believe in Him, the lambs of His flock. He has a special love for and interest in the children.” (*), “The Lord Jesus feels sad to see children neglected. . .”(**), “Jesus received children gladly, smiled upon them, and expressed His joy at seeing them.” (***), “The angels of God are ever near your little ones. . .Let love and tenderness, patience and self-control, be at all times the law of your speech. Winning love is to be like deep waters, ever-flowing forth in the management of your children. All through His life, Christ performed acts of love and tenderness for the children.” (****).
What is the right approach to the pandemic and to life?
Often, as a society and as a church, we ask ourselves what is the right perspective from which to approach and deal well with life and the challenges we face. What are the priorities? What are the essential parameters from which to start?
If we disregard children, their needs, and their requirements, we are not on the right track. Every action we take, as a society and as a church, should have as its main parameter the good of our children, because they are the future and the hope. Every act that does not consider the good of children is selfish, short-sighted, and short-lived. When a society or church no longer considers the needs of children, it is doomed to decline because it is not investing in its own future.
Even in the case of the pandemic, we must consider the good of our children first, whatever the decision to be taken. Their mental, emotional, and physical well-being is of enormous importance and must be protected with great care.
The importance of being like children
In Matthew 18: 3, 4 we read, ‘Jesus called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
Accepting Jesus means returning to the vitality, passion, and naivety of a child. Jesus, during His earthly life, was enthusiastic, dynamic, joyful, and full of life. It is the genuine and sincere love for God that makes us convinced and smiling Christians. God's love fills us and completes us. God's love is so powerful that it pervades our whole being and envelops everyone around us. We are loved by our Father and, as children, we have no choice but to share that love with our sisters and brothers - our neighbors.
Let us become children again and rediscover the vitality, the enthusiasm, the passion of a child.
In order to understand children and enter the kingdom of God, it is necessary to become children again, as the Bible teaches us. May the Lord protect us from violating His kingdom by violating the rights and needs of children. May this pandemic also teach us to be responsible for our children, for God's kingdom, and for the future that is theirs.