Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

14.28 6 Jul 2021


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The COVID-19 pandemic has "cryogenically frozen" the development of children in terms of their emotional and social development.

That is according to Dr Colman Noctor, a child and adolescent psychotherapist, who believes parents need to let their kids have some independence after a year of living under strict rules.

He thinks children need to learn autonomy and independence away from the overview of their parents.

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"As a psychotherapist, you're meeting children at the moment who are younger and older, they seem to have missed a gap," Dr Noctor told The Pat Kenny Show.

"I think over COVID, there was probably a point where children's emotional and social development was cryogenically frozen.

"Then at the same time, we were doing this stay safe, stay home piece and telling children for the last five years, 'come off your screens and go outside', and then we were telling them for the last 15 months, 'come inside and go on your screens'.

"I was conscious that we were setting up a virtual neighbourhood that was massive but their physical neighbourhoods for things like sleepovers, meeting friends, palling around on the green, had really reduced.

"I was concerned that was going to be a habit that would stay."

colman noctor File photo. Credit: Pexels from Pixabay

Dr Noctor believes that a lot of things that were done during COVID were good, such as his ability to meet children in virtual sessions, but he hopes this "new abnormal" doesn't become the norm after the pandemic.

He added that a lot of what children do are "adult-led" as parents organise activities such play dates and training.

"There's not a lot of room for children to self-entertain, to self-introduce and become autonomous," Dr Noctor said.

"Not compromising any physical health guidelines or anything, but we need to do more of having children doing adult-free time to play together.

"Comparing my own childhood of jumping over bales, cycling on the road, I wouldn't let my children do anything next nor near that, even though I can see the benefits for myself.

"As parents, it's just easier to do it for them or do it with them.

"Maybe let's not go for the convenient option, think about their autonomy, their independence building, and give them an opportunity to try things out."

'We need to allow them some freedom'

Dr Noctor also explained that in recent years, parents have become more aware of the dangers children face in society, such as busy roads or strangers, which might make them more likely to wrap their kids in bubble wrap.

"The dependency on adults has increased over the past year, children are much more dependent on adults to direct them, entertain them and tell them what to do," he said.

"Child safety hasn't really changed but our fear of children's safety has. There is the reality that roads are much busier, traffic is much busier.

"I think removing the bubble wrapping is really challenging at the moment, it's challenging for parents to do it but it's necessary.

He added: "The most important message you can send your child is 'you've got this'.

"The message of telling them to try things, have a bit of autonomy and independence, is important, no matter what anxiety that causes us as parents.

"Our need for parental control, especially when we have had a stay safe stay home message for the last 15 months, means we do want to keep our children closer to us but in actual fact, maybe we need to allow them a little bit of freedom."

Main image: File photo. Credit: Kelly Redinger/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire

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