By Mrs. Preeti Kwatra
COVID-19 has been perceived worldwide as a significant threat to health and a risk to the global economy, affecting people’s lives, everyday behaviour and often triggering intense fear. It has led to closures of schools in every country across the world, putting approximately 1.5 billion children and youth out of schools.
Children are not indifferent to the tremendous impact of the pandemic. They experience fears, uncertainties, and physical and social isolation and may fail to see the school for an extended period. Never before a crisis of this nature has been felt by many families around the world: homeschooling is not only a massive disruption to parents’ productivity, but it is also affecting children’s social life, learning and mental health.
As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfurl, the development of young children can not stop. It has adversely affected not only the adults but children’s mental health too. The disruption of COVID-19 came not just with the threat to the health but it also came with major changes to lifestyle like physical distancing, wearing masks, washing hands frequently and some of this assumed as draconian proportions with the lockdown.
Considering this, it is normal for the child to become anxious at this time. Parents should look out for emotional cues in their child and talk to them regarding the same. They need to make them understand that the things will be better if they take proper care. Parents must remember that this is a new situation for their children and they should not get irritated with them.
Parents need to watch the screen time of kids at home. It can be tempting for children to just sit in front of the television or gadgets and when children stop doing their normal activities, it can have an adverse effect on their mood. Therefore, parents should spend more time with their kids and keep them engaged in various activities like games, craft activities, developing their hobbies, learning new things so that their screen time can be curtailed.
Although it may be normal that screen time increases during these exceptional circumstances, it is important to consider reducing the amount of screen time specifically focused on COVID-19. Too much information or constantly following updates about the status of COVID-19 can increase anxiety. Be aware that information intended for adults can cause anxiety or confusion, especially in young children.
Keeping physically active is critical to boost the mood of the children. Engage them in indoor activities as they might get easily bored during the lockdown. Involve them in stretching exercises, yoga and dancing. Parents should also ask their kids to help them in simple household activities. They should try to explain to them that following social distancing is the best way to curb the virus from spreading and affecting people that they love. They need to understand that this is a worldwide phenomenon that’s never happened before and that everyone is in this together.
At the same time reassurance is very important. Reassure the children that this is a temporary phase and that this is the right time when they can spend quality time with their parents and family members, who are otherwise busy with office or work. Also, listening to their concerns and providing them with positive solutions is crucial. Set up a robust routine and schedule for children at home for online schoolwork, playtime, self-studies or recreational activities such as board games, music, screen time etc.
Children learn most from what they see their parents do, therefore think of setting a good example of taking care of your physical and mental health. For example, avoid catastrophizing. If your child is overly focused on negative thoughts and outcomes, help them think in a more optimistic way. Let them know that just because there is a risk that something will happen, does not necessarily mean it will. Keeping them in contact with their friends by helping them stay connected through calls, video calls, etc. would also help them to feel less anxious and would make them more comfortable.
These are some of the ways in which we can assure that our kids stay mentally and physically healthy during these times of crisis.
Mrs. Preeti Kwatra is Founder & Director of Petals India’s Preschool Club