'Am I ever going to see friends again?': Heartbreaking tears of four-year-old in lockdown

Photo supplied
Photo supplied 

Like most Sydneysiders, I haven't seen my family in a long time - well at least face-to-face.

To fill the void of much-needed hugs, this latest lockdown has been filled with numerous FaceTime sessions. At least one call a day with mum and dad, and another with my sister and her two little ones. 

As I have a seven-month-old that my family miss dearly, even on the days when I have nothing new to report, the FaceTime calls still go ahead.

One particular person who never misses a call is my four-year-old nephew Beau.

Beau has been obsessed with baby Noah since he found out his cousin was growing in my tummy. He absolutely loves spending time with him. 

One of the things Beau most looks forward to each day is his FaceTime session with his cousin Noah

One of the things Beau most looks forward to each day is his FaceTime session with his cousin Noah. Photo: Supplied

It's now been 12 weeks since Beau has cuddled Noah, and the impact it has had on my dear nephew is heartbreaking. 

During a recent FaceTime call, Beau broke down in tears as he asked, "Why can't I see you baby Noah?". And well, how do you answer that? 

My sister Ana, Beau's mum, has done her best to explain the current lockdown situation to her little boy. "I try to explain to him that there is a virus going around, and that we can't go out and see anyone as we may get sick".

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The global pandemic has been extra stressful for my sister and her family as their youngest, three-year-old Mya, is prone to developing respiratory issues when she falls ill. As such, catching COVID-19 can be extremely dangerous for her

As a result, the family have been extra cautious during the latest NSW outbreak. They only leave the house for their daily walk, never take the kids to the supermarket and don't step into playgrounds to avoid any unnecessary contact with others. 

Mya being a little younger, has been able to adjust to the limitations without much fuss. But for Beau, who is at the age where playing with his friends is the absolute highlight of his day, it's been tough. 

Being told you can't play with your cousin, can't spend the afternoon at Grandma's house, can't see your friends - a four-year-old can only assume this is all punishment for something they've done wrong. 

Beau's days used to be filled to the brim with fun. He would spend three days a week at pre-school with his friends, one day a week with his beloved grandma and another day with myself his aunty and his 'best-mate' Noah.

Just when his exciting week was done, the weekend would roll around packed with outdoor adventures alongside mum, dad and his little sister, as well as regular play dates with friends and big family feasts. 

His lockdown life however, looks pretty different. His mum Ana spends hours each day organising arts and crafts for the kids, encouraging outside play and setting up 'camping sleepovers' in the living room - all in an attempt to keep he and his sister occupied, happy and having fun.

But, none of these things involve his friends, his family or his baby cousin Noah.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien a Child Psycholist at The Quirky Kid Clinic, understands just how hard it is for parents to manage the mixed emotions of pre-schoolers during this time.

"Parents can understand their kids want to go outside and play and see their friends, but they can't," she says. "To be able to keep that boundary in place for this long amount of time is becoming exhausting."

Dr O'Brien says parents might notice a regression in their children's behaviour as a result of the lockdown, "bed wetting, a more clingy nature, quick to tear". 

The lack of stimulation for kids can also lead to difficultly sleeping, "After three days of pre-school they are usually exhausted, but if they've just been at home and not as physically active, then sleep is usually disrupted."

Mum Ana is worried about the lasting impact these months in isolation will have on her little boy. She's concerned that he might not even get the chance to experience his first day of kindergarten next year.

"Beau is such a caring and sensitive child. He thrives on friendship and the company of kids around him and without it, feels lonely and vulnerable", she reveals. "If he doesn't get the chance to go to school and make new friends in those first few weeks, I worry it will impact his entire school experience." 

One particularly concerning night, my sister woke to find Beau in tears. When she asked him why he was so upset, he simply asked "Am I ever going to see my friends again?".

According to Dr O'Brien, there are a number of things that parents can do to help their kids feel connected during such a lonely time, "Zoom calls with friends, exercise dates with friends so they can get out and see at least one friend."

She also suggests having visual calendars in the house as they give kids something to look forward to, "they look at day's like Christmas coming up, and get excited" and showing children photos of their teachers and friends from school, "so they don't forget all these people, and can transition back into school easily."