My nephew was born in the pandemic last year on 6 May. As the country was on full lockdown, we could meet him months later when the 1st wave of covid has slowed down. He is so adorable and sweet, and he hates people.
They live in a joint family. So there are 4 families and their 7 kids living together under the same roof. In 7 kids we have shy, outgoing, talkative, confident but they all play together. It’s like they have their own playmates in the house.
All of them are now clingy and agitated most of the time, and it is not only them. Most kids feel like this.
How COVID Is Affecting Children
Because of Covid and lockdown, there is a sense of fear. Everyone is anxious, which has led to short-term and long-term psychosocial and mental health implications for children and adolescents.
Compared to the grown-ups, the young have a greater impact on their emotional and social development. In one of the preliminary studies, they found that 3 to 6-year-old kids are more likely to become clingy and 6 to 18-year-old have more fear of family members being affected. The older kids are also more likely to experience inattention and inquire more persistently regarding Covid.
All children, irrespective of their age groups, revealed severe psychological conditions of increased irritability, inattention, and clinging behavior.
The nationwide closures of schools and colleges have negatively affected over 91% of the world’s student population. Because of lockdown, kids are at home all the time. This is disrupting their education, physical activities, and opportunities for socialization, making them uncertain and anxious.
Children who are already suffering from ADHD, anxiety, mood disorders and behavior disorders could be adversely impacted during this stressful situation.
In children, especially during adolescence, depression can one of the major cause of mental illness and in times like this where do not feel safe and don’t know what is going to happen, it can increase.
In recent surveys by Save the Children of over 6000 children and parents in the US, Germany, Finland, Spain and the UK, up to 65% of the children struggled with boredom and feelings of isolation.
And the kids who are living in challenging home environments, lack social support or support from their parents and those who are living in poverty were already at risk and now are more vulnerable. Help anyone you can in these times.
Research shows that feelings of helplessness, loneliness and fear of being socially excluded, stigmatized or separated from loved ones are common in any epidemic, while prolonged stress, boredom and social isolation, as well as a lack of outdoor play, can lead to a higher number of mental health conditions in children, such as anxiety and even depression.
“While children are resilient, we cannot underestimate the impact the pandemic is having on their mental wellbeing and overall health. Children in a stable environment are likely to fare better, but many children are not so fortunate. Those who are living in poverty, who are experiencing violence at home, or are otherwise vulnerable can really be pushed over the edge by long-lasting lockdowns — in the worst cases if left unaddressed this could escalate to depression and other mental health concerns. The mental health impacts of COVID-19 could be seen far beyond the life of the pandemic.”
“Children are suffering enormous upheaval on a scale that we have not seen in this lifetime. There have been many sudden changes to their lives and so much is yet unknown about the long-term impacts of this crisis, which requires us to be vigilant and do everything possible to limit the impact on young minds”
“While some countries are starting to re-open schools, many children are still missing out on an education. It’s important that all countries are able to detect and respond to signs of distress and depression among children during lockdown and once these children return to public life.” — Marie Dahl, Head of Save the Children’s Mental Health & Psychosocial Support Unit
How Parents Can Support Their Children
Staying calm is very important. Having a calm, proactive conversation with children about COVID is the first step. Let them know what the symptoms are and that even if they start to feel the symptoms, there is no need to be afraid.
“Parents should encourage their kids to let them know if they’re not feeling well, or if they are feeling worried about the virus so that the parents can be of help.” — UNICEF
Talk to them as often as you can and reassure them that COVID infections are generally mild, especially for children. Tell them the importance of washing hands and maintaining social distance for keeping them and the community safe.
Follow a routine
Make a schedule for your kids. Children need routine and structure in their life. Kids thrive on a routine when they know at what time they get to play or when they got to work, it makes it easier for them.
Include technology-free time in their routine and also the time when they help around the house. All the studies and socialisation is on phones or laptops, they get more time on technology than they are used to. Setting a technology-free time can be very helpful.
Workaround the routine that works best for you and your children, so that you can spend time with them. Talk to them to know how they are feeling.
Change the routine until you find the one that works best for you. Some parents find it easier if the kids do all the work and studies first thing in the morning, but some find it better if they have a relaxed morning and work later. Find your perfect routine.
“Support, expect and normalize that they are very sad and very frustrated about the losses they are mourning.” — UNICEF
Find out what your children are feeling
The schools are closed. The children can not meet their friends, go to school plays, take part in activities they love, play in the park, go to their favourite places. They are missing out on so much, and that can make them feel sad and disappointed.
Dr Damour’s number one piece of advice is to let them be sad. “In the scope of an adolescent’s life, these are major losses. This is bigger for them than it is for us because we’re measuring it against our lifetime and experience. Support, expect and normalize that they are very sad and very frustrated about the losses they are mourning.” When in doubt, empathy and support are the way to go. — UNICEF.
Give them accurate information
Truth is that Covid-19 is still new and we don’t know everything there is to know about this virus. So there is a good deal of misinformation about coronavirus, and your children may pick up something inaccurate.
Find out what they are thinking. If they have any misunderstanding, address it with accurate facts. If there is something that even you don’t know the answer to, find the answer from reliable sources, and answer them accordingly.
Encourage your children to turn to you when they have any trouble understanding anything.
Distractions are welcome
Everyone is having a hard time in this situation. Because the children are at home all the time, they have more time on their hands. Instead of using technology as a distraction, find something that will help the kids feel better in such time.
I am 25 years old and currently because of lockdown, we’re all at home. No one can go out, and it is depressing. But we never had this much time to spend with each other. We play board games, eat together always — breakfast, lunch and dinner. We watch movies together every Saturday and Sunday. We even started exercising together, but it didn’t last long.
For us, these are the welcoming distractions. Find the one that works for your family.
Your behaviour will affect the kids
You know when we were kids, and we just knew that today is not the day to do anything out of line. We could sense that mom is sad or dad is angry. Most of the times we didn’t know what was going on, but we knew something is not quite right.
If parents are anxious or sad, then kids will take emotional cues from them. It does not mean that parents can’t be sad. We should try to do it on our own time. It will be very hard, but children rely on us to provide them with comfort and safety.
Remind your children that they can have other tough conversations with you. Remind them you care, you’re listening and that you’re available whenever they’re feeling worried.
Some other articles available by WHO and UNESCO (for more information)
Child mental health during COVID-19
This post was previously published on Medium.
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