New Delhi, April 1, 2021: The COVID19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown generated a lot of fear and stress across all age groups. Children usually thrive under predictable conditions, but the pandemic’s disruption greatly impacted them physically and emotionally. Online schooling, social isolation, lack of interactions with their friends, lack of physical sports and parental angst have aggravated their mental and emotional wellbeing. Children and adolscents have developed fear, anxiety, depression, and boredom. While most parents were involved in dealing with the pandemic’s uncertainty and putting all efforts to keep their family safe and sustainable, the emotional needss and mental health of children were somehow ignored.
THE IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC ON CHILDREN: The pandemic has changed the way children typically grow, learn, play, behave, interact, and manage emotions. Children have been observed to have conduct problems, peer problems, externalizing problems, and general psychological distress. When compared with children who did not exercise, children with psychical activity had lower hyperactivity-inattention and less prosocial behavior problems.
Moreover, from a more emotional perspective, they have a lot going around in their head, and the biggest worry for them is whether or not they will see their friends in school or get sick. The combined effect between lifestyle changes and psychosocial stress caused by home confinement perhaps aggravates children’s behavioural problems.
In the long run, this can lead to an emotional breakdown among children, and the same may lead to these children resisting to return to school post-lockdown. This can happen primarily because children have lost their pre-lockdown routines and the loss of touch with their peers and mentors. In addition to this, the lockdown-related constraints can have a long-term negative effect on their overall psychological wellbeing.
SO, HOW DO WE TACKLE THIS? Here’s how you can help children cope with COVID-related stress;
- Address fears: Anxiety and emotional depression can be tackled by parents to some extent by addressing fears of children, talking about problems and possible solutions from the child’s perspective.
- Spend time with grandparents: Children who have grandparents can spend some quality time with them, listen to stories and tell them stories. Talking to them will help.
- Follow a routine: Parents can maintain some routines even if confined at home. It is always good if parents and children can plan some activities together. Parents should also plan their children’s tasks one at a time, involve them in various home activities, educate them about following hygiene habits and social distancing.
- Play games: Engage in indoor play and creative activities. In addition to these activities, children can be advised to be involved in household chores and understand their social responsibilities.
- Organise virtual play dates: To keep them in touch with friends and classmates, plan a virtual party and playdates.
- Discuss issues: Parents should pay more attention to the emotional wellbeing of the child. Keep emphasizing COVID19 measures like wearing a mask, social distancing, and frequent hand washing, as the pandemic is not over yet. Also, children should be encouraged to socialize with their friends and classmates through digital forums under the parent’s supervision.
(Dr Jesal Sheth is Senior Consultant-Paediatrician, Fortis Hospital, Mulund; Cover image by Tumisu from Pixabay)