Whenever the human race has faced an extraordinary situation such as the ongoing pandemic, it’s various aspects are hit by adverse effects.
People of different age groups react differently to the restrictions and precautions that come along with it. Suddenly we have woken up into a new world. Amidst this pandemic, which now has spanned over a period of 6 months, the real heroes at home have been OUR CHILDREN.
When it all began, the children entered into a new world where they were excited to be at home with both the parents and family members spending quality time together. It was like an extended vacation for them. Some of the parents reported that because of busy schedules and not being able to spend enough time earlier, they were never aware of the talents their kids had. However, with the extension of imposed restrictions i.e. social distancing and restriction on physical activity, it started affecting the physical and mental health of our young ones.
“Play is the work of childhood”, believes renowned Psychologist Jean Piaget. For children, play means being free, relaxing, learning, sharing and exploring. When a parent comes to me with a sudden increase in behaviour concerns like screaming or restlessness, one of the important questions I ask them is, “Does your child play outdoors?” Lack of activity leads to lockdown of their energy.
I asked my 9-year old niece, Saisha, “What is the first thing you would like to do when this lockdown is over?” Her reply was, “I will go down and keep running for an hour.”
Studies have shown that being at home has led to obesity in children which in turn affects the self-esteem in some cases. Another concern is the increased exposure of screen time and the real world being substituted by the virtual world. Instances of cyberbullying are on the rise amongst older children and for some, it’s tough to cope with such challenges. These have adverse effects on mood and sleep, attention span and mental health, which is a grave area of concern.
Lockdown and the negative news around us have created a lot of anxiety, fear, uncertainty and insecurity within children. They have a fear of losing their parents or family members to the deadly virus. With the restriction on social interaction, they miss meeting their friends in person, lunch breaks at school, playing in the ground and their extra-curricular activities. Beyond a point, they need peers of their age to play with. Parents have been reporting a rise in behaviour issues and incidences like screaming, hitting, shouting and change in eating habits. Since children are unable to express their emotions, their pent up feelings come out as screaming and yelling. “Children learn from what they see”. If there are fights/abuse at home, they tend to learn those ways of coping with a stressful situation. It is of utmost importance that we talk to our children and share their feelings.
While talking to my niece the other day she said, “I feel homesick”. I asked her that but you are at home, how can you be homesick? She said, “I mean I am sick of being at home.” This is part of their boredom syndrome, wherein they have limited activities apart from a few classes, television and the internet. Even their daily schedule has undergone a change with regular activities such as getting them to bathe or brush their teeth is becoming a task for parents.
Talk to your children and you will be amazed by what they are feeling right now. Some said ‘I feel miserable’, ‘I am going to cut off this year from my life’, ‘I hate social distancing’. In older children, there is a rise in feelings of depression and anxiety.
The “New Normal”
As parents and caregivers, it’s our duty and responsibility to build a safe environment for our children. We must share feelings with them, try to lower their fear, play with them, provide emotional support and seek professional help when needed.
A balanced diet and quality sleep will help deal better with the situation. Most importantly, we must teach them that these are tough times and these too shall pass. Above all, the lesson of having an optimistic approach will go a long way and teach our kids to deal with any stressful situation in the future and adjust to “new normal” ways of living.