When the Spanish government announced a national lockdown in mid-March in response to the coronavirus, not everyone was dismayed by the prospect of spending several weeks at home.
Miguel Sánchez, 15, from Madrid, was delighted that he would not have to go to school for the foreseeable future.
Six weeks later, having not left the family apartment once, the lockout has lost some of its luster to him and he still doesn’t know when he can get out.
The restrictions have been partially lifted for children under the age of 14 for the first time. This means that Miguel’s younger brother Jaime can now go out every day. But Miguel cannot.
“He misses his friends”
“It bothers him because he says ‘Why can my brother go out and I can’t?’ Explains their mother, Cristina Carrasco, teacher.
Miguel spent most of his time indoors doing homework. In his spare time, he played video games and watched movies with his younger brother.
“As a teenager, he really misses seeing his friends, going out and having contact with other kids his age,” she said. “Miguel is a good child, but adolescents have good and bad days. “
What has changed for Spanish children?
The new lockout conditions allow 6.3 million Spaniards under the age of 14 to leave their home every day for a total of one hour between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., but no further than one kilometer.
Bikes, skates and skateboards are allowed, but public parks are prohibited. The other conditions for the foreclosure remain in place for the time being, with the government planning to further loosen it in the second half of May.
Psychologists have welcomed the lifting of restrictions on small children, saying that even an hour outside each day can significantly improve their mood.
“Changing your routine, being outside and being in the sun – it’s all extremely important,” said Laura Piñeiro, psychologist and director in Madrid of the charity Asociación Bienestar Desarollo (ABD).
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“There are people who live in 40 m² (430 m²), who don’t have enough ventilation or light. If you live in a limited space, when you go out in the sun, it generates a feeling of well-being, ”she says.
For the majority of children aged 14 and over in Spain, this particular source of well-being remains out of reach.
What about older children?
Health Minister Salvador Illa said over 13s are allowed to run errands for their parents, as was the case throughout the isolation.
However, parents generally prefer not to send their children, especially to closed places such as supermarkets, where there is more risk of contagion.
Meanwhile, technology offers teens a virtual form of social life, via mobile apps like WhatsApp and social media, but it’s not the same as human contact.
Piñeiro says that the frustration that detention causes children can easily lead to family conflicts. Adolescents, in particular, need some autonomy in the home, she said.
“Being locked up and watched by their parents means that they do not have the basic freedom they would like. “
Greater freedom for animals than for children
The debate over how the movement is managed intensified as the lockdown progressed.
Critics of the socialist-led government have pointed out that the dogs, who were allowed to walk throughout the crisis, were given more freedom than the children.
Opposition leader Pablo Casado said that in millions of homes, young people “climb the walls”.
There was a brutal reaction when the government initially announced a more timid relaxation of restrictions for children, before introducing the current, more liberal policy.
However, not everyone agrees that the past six weeks have been so difficult for Spanish children.
“Children adapt much better to new circumstances than adults,” said Susana Fuertes, mother of a 16-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl in Brunete, near Madrid.
“I really don’t think it was a traumatic experience for the children. Those I know have lived in a safe environment with their parents. “
She says that her son, Mateo, is not particularly annoyed that her sister, Isabel, now has more freedom of movement than he does. But Susana is puzzled by the new standard.
“It’s a little strange to put a barrier between those over 13 and other children,” she said.
Miguel Sánchez’s mother is worried about how the lockout will affect him if it lasts beyond spring. As the thousands of summer parties and festivals in Spain begin to be canceled or postponed, Cristina Carrasco says it has started to worry her.
“In the short term, she is very pleased that he does not have to go to class in school,” she said.
“But he says if it goes on until June 21, when the school holidays start, no one is going to stop him from going out.”