New study-The stress caused by the pandemic affects the emotional development of children and adolescents: how to help them?

New Study - The stress caused by the pandemic affects the emotional development of children and adolescents

Children and adolescents are among the groups that have experienced the pandemic with the most stress and, according to a new study, the stress maintained during childhood can affect their emotional development. However, we can help them avoid these consequences. How to do it?

New Study - The stress caused by the pandemic affects the emotional development of children and adolescents

86% of our minors have experienced emotional changes of various kinds during this pandemic, according to a study carried out by the Miguel Hernández University and University degli Estudi di Perugia. The results tell us that:

  • In 69.9% of the cases the presence of negative or unpleasant emotions was detected.
  • 31% had sleep problems.
  • 24.1% developed behavior problems.

Understanding why the pandemic has impacted them in this way and the impact it may have on their emotional development will allow us to help them redirect their discomfort to prevent them from degenerating into situations of emotional and social isolation, and will also show us that we must comfort them and help them cope your fears, heartaches, anxieties, feelings of loss, and worries as you deal with these difficult transitions.


Throughout these months we have all gone through an extraordinary pandemic scenario characterized by living immersed in high levels of uncertainty, concern and bewilderment.

We did not know what was going to happen or what our future would be like while we were constantly challenged to seek new ways of coping and adapting.

The most immediate consequence of this accelerated adaptive process is that it was characterized by a significant increase in stress agents.

At present it is known that one of the groups most affected in their emotional well-being are children and adolescents. Why?

  • They suffered a double impact on a psychological level and a loss of material resources

As we said, this double impact is related at the psychological level and at the level of differential material resources that compromised both their affective and academic development.
And several factors were added:

  1. The impact of the confinement experience.
  2. The decline in their academic performance related to different starting situations of families both in coping resources and in socioeconomic ones.

These last material deficiencies made it very difficult for a good part of the students to have adequate access to school content, as the Save the Children organization already included in its report.

  • They experienced a struggle: between fear and the need for socialization

The nature of the internal emotional tensions that our students harbored within was a fierce struggle between the fear of contagion themselves and their elders and the imperative need to go out and relate to their classmates because only then did they find that they could develop adequately in this vital stage so important to them.

  1. Overnight their lifestyle was radically altered and they suffered a vital break in their daily habits and they stopped being able to see their friends and teachers.
  2. They gave up hugging their grandparents and relatives who showered them with affection and attention while providing them with a warm feeling of security.
  3. Many of them were involuntary witnesses in their families of anguishing deaths, situations of illness and suffering, amen de Ertes, layoffs and financial concerns.

All these elements of risk in their emotional development that fractured the necessary feeling of internal security and caused emotional suffering.


A new study directed by the professor of Biology at the University of Valencia Juan Nácher and published in the journal Neurology of Stress (2021), suggests that adverse and negative experiences during the first years of life compromise the development of certain brain regions, especially the area of ​​the prefrontal cortex which is related to the modulation of emotions and emotional self-regulation.

It seems that subjecting people to prolonged stress in late childhood and adolescence alters the so-called inhibitory neurons related to the control and synchronization of the neural networks of our brain and that this would act as a predisposing factor in development of certain psychiatric pathologies.

The good news is that, curiously, a group of students who were trained in emotional self-regulation skills for development in another study underway prior to the emergence of the pandemic saw how they helped in an important way to dampen the negative emotions associated with the context. Pandemic.

That is to say, being trained in a skill of the prefrontal cortex, which is in turn the most altered under continuous stress situations, acted as a robust protection factor against excessive and prolonged stress over time.

All this leads us to think about the vital importance of implementing early psychological prevention and intervention strategies to deactivate the impact of negative emotions associated with the pandemic and contribute to its modulation.


What is essential in this situation is that these stressors, especially those that affect the earliest stages of life, can be adequately addressed to nullify or reduce their negative impact. For this, it is especially important to provide them with the appropriate coping tools.

  • We can offer real emotional support.
  • Promote contexts of security and trust to help.
  • Collaborate with their families and the educational community so that our children and adolescents firmly feel that their needs can be welcomed and understood in a warm and empathetic way and that above all we are there to help them tolerate and manage frustrations associated with the pandemic context such as it can be with the management of physical distance and social restrictions.
  • We can accompany them and help to redirect their discomfort.

Only if we offer the right help when they need it will we make them resilient and able to adapt successfully to adversity.

As Tfofa (2018) said “we must act in life not ignoring the dangers, risks or negative aspects but deepening our vision of the negative to extract a meaning and, at the same time that we work on assimilating it, we must focus on what really it matters and where support is needed to stay on course for a meaningful and successful outcome.”

Only in this way will we achieve that our children and adolescents speak in the future of the pandemic as a beautiful difficult personal experience but full of wise self-knowledge and fulfillment.


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