The Impact of COVID-19 on Children: COD Psychology Professors Emphasize Break from Routine Can Positively Affect Child and Adolescent Development

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 20, 2020 | Go to article overview

The Impact of COVID-19 on Children: COD Psychology Professors Emphasize Break from Routine Can Positively Affect Child and Adolescent Development


Byline: COD New Bureau

With the continuation of remote learning and virtual activities this fall, many parents are concerned about the impact of social isolation and the looser structure of home-based learning will have on their children.

College of DuPage Professors of Psychology Azure Thill and Ada Wainwright want to reassure parents that a break in strict routine allows children an opportunity to engage in unstructured play and gives adolescents more time to self-reflect.

"There is so much focus in the news on how stay-at-home orders are impairing child development and parents need an uplift," Thill said. "We need to look at the next school year from a different lens. One thing that we know based on decades of research is that unstructured play has a multitude of cognitive and social advantages."

In the latest issue from the American Journal of Play, researchers found that children's unscheduled playtime has been declining steadily over the past half-century. In addition, findings from a research study from the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado offers support for a relationship between the time children spend in less-structured activities and the development of self-directed executive functions.

Thill said that many children no longer know how to handle boredom, they can lack creativity and they don't have opportunities to practice leading and following amongst their peers.

"Parents tend to think that an abundance of activities will give their children an advantage as they move through their educational career," she said. "Undoubtedly, there will be less direct learning and less large group socialization during the next school year. Instead of making parents feel like they need to worry and find ways to compensate, we need to help them understand what an important and unique opportunity this is."

In Thill's Educational Psychology class, the curriculum focuses on the importance of play and encourages future teachers to build play into their curriculum.

"I hope we see the return of small group unstructured play in the suburban neighborhoods," she said. "Sometimes parents feel the need to function like a cruise director, laying out a list of pre-planned activities every morning. They need to be reminded that playing in the back yard is beneficial for kids too."

For teenagers, the COVID-19 pandemic has canceled important events and limited many of their social activities. …

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