Profound Impact Of The Pandemic On Children’s Mental Health: NIMHANS

Deprived of social outings and gatherings, or visits to extended family and schools, and no external recreation- parents are doing their best to make sure children are safe indoors and when they step
mental health kids

Just when we thought 2022 was looking slightly better than 2020 and 2021 and were hoping for a new dawn, the pandemic situation has hit us. real hard this time. With the third wave hitting us real hard, and the talks of curfews and lockdowns surfacing again- it is not the ideal way we would have wanted the new year to start.

As much as we talk about the onus on parents with children at home, and the added pressure of entertaining and educating g them while they are indoors- we need to applaud our mini-mes for sailing through these tough days (and weeks and months) in ways they best know-how.

Deprived of social outings and gatherings, or visits to extended family and schools, and no external recreation- parents are doing their best to make sure children are safe indoors and when they step out, they know how to use a mask. But are we paying heed to their emotional and mental health?

NIMHANS statistics: 

A recent statement by NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences) states that their helpline had received about 50-60 calls daily, but post lockdown, the scenario had changed a lot. NIMHANS claims they now receive over 200 calls every day, most of which are from parents seeking advice on handling children at home.Suicidal tendencies, depression and loneliness were some of the common issues parents were concerned about, in these calls to NIMHANS.

Another recent poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association had some startling revelations. It said around 26% of parents surveyed have sought professional mental health help for their children during the pandemic year. 48% of parents had said that the pandemic had caused mental health problems for one more of their children and more than 53% of parents accepted that they were concerned about the mental state of their children.

A recent mention on the Relief Web Portal mentions that the number of calls made to the Indian helpline for children in distress- Childline- had increased in the last year and is on the rise now. If this is not worrisome- what is?

In the past year, we at Kidsstoppress are doing our bit to find out from the experts what it means to raise kids with a strong emotional foundation and what we can do, as parents, to help them sail through these tough times. Here’s a summary of what we have heard from various experts over the past months:

Not the “new normal”:

Dr Samir Dalwai, Developmental Paediatrician and the Founder of New Horizons Group, spoke to us recently on the impact of the pandemic on the children, the focus on mental health and what we must bear in mind when it comes to the second wave and its impact of the kids. Listen to the full podcast here. 

He says stop defining this as “the new normal” to your kids. Tell them positive things (as difficult as it may be) and explain how things will get back to being better once the pandemic is over.

We also spoke to Dr Zirak MarkerChild Psychiatrist, Expert Educational Psychology, Mpower Minds earlier on parental burnout, the effect of the pandemic on children- toddlers to tweens. He spoke on why the mental health crisis is at an all-time high and parents need to take it one thing at a time, be easy on themselves and the children and not compare their kids to others. From toddlers missing out on essential developmental skills to teenagers missing out on experiential learning in universities and peer groups- the pandemic has been a very tough one, on the kids. Watch the complete interview here.

How to bond with your kids indoors:

We earlier spoke to Dr Sapna Bangar – Psychiatrist and Head, Mpower – The Centre when the pandemic was making inroads in our lives. Dr Sapna shared some wonderful insights to Kidsstoppress on how we can make kids spend their energy usefully- like indoor games, and dancing to loud music (together as a family!) She also talked about how it is important in sensorial activities like baking that help children calm down and focus on what they do. Also doubles up as a great way to bond with them when you bake their favourite treats!

Watch the full interview with Dr Sapna and Mansi Zaveri.

Dr Nihar Parekh, a leading paediatrician in South Mumbai spoke to us on the symptoms that we must watch out for when we should reach out to a doctor and how to isolate if the child is tested positive. He also spoke about how we, the parents, should use this time to bond better with kids and spend more time in fun family activities.

Watch the full video here.

Watching all the news about the deaths, and how the pandemic is affecting them in close quarters cannot be easy on the kids. They tend to worry more about it and get anxious.

If you notice your child is too anxious about all that’s happening around them, here is what Sadaf Merchant- a Behaviour Therapist and contributor at Kidsstoppress suggest we do, as parents. Read all about how to handle anxiety in children here. 

  • Make them involved in physical movements, games, exercise

  • Sit and let them do any artwork, doodling, colouring

  • Ask them to write about their feelings and emotion or record what it feels like

  • Identify the source of anxiousness (height, performance, strangers, etc)

  • Attack Techniques – give them ways to fight their battles

  • Draw a map and explain to them who is causing them the trouble

  • Teach them ways to distract themselves when they fear or worry

  • Accept their imperfections with constant reassurance

Things to remember: 

  • It is important to stay in the know when it comes to the virus and the impact around you- but don’t go overboard with constant news feeds and lengthy discussions at home. Remember the kids are watching you.
  • Explain to slightly older kids and ask them what they understood. In case a loved one or a family member is affected, talk to the kids first instead of hushing them up. Explain why social distancing, wearing masks and staying at home is important now than ever before.
  • Keep kids busy all day. Invest in some really good puzzles and board games. Helps them in critical thinking.
  • Watch movies or shows together as a family. Here are some suggestions from our end. 
  • Get them started on mindfulness and yoga as a habit. Will come in handy. Click here for an exclusive mindfulness course for kids. 
  • Spend time doing things together as a family- be it music or dance, or talking- just whatever helps you bond better with the kids.

Remember- there is no “perfect parenting in the pandemic”. We are all learning as we evolve. But just remember to take it light with the kids- and enjoy some never-before indoor time with them. When are we going to get such quality time, again, right?! Make use of NOW!

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