All activities planned need to come from the space of mental stimulation, emotional and social benefits.
By Dr Japneet Anand
As the number of coronavirus cases rise and quarantine spikes across the globe, people are being driven into isolation. Pandemic isolation has been hard on all of us because we are social beings. It is much more difficult for children than for adults as children are constantly trying to regulate their feelings.
The pandemic has been the biggest change that any of us could ever imagine. For most of us, it is during this time that we saw what uncertainties could mean. Even for people who have never had any history of mental breakdown are finding it difficult to cope during these times. We can only imagine what a child might be going through internally hence parents need to be cautious in their way of dealing with them.
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The two major aspects of life that pandemic has had its effect on human lives is isolation and social distancing, which has caused stress and fear.
Children experience worry, anxiety and fear due to a drastic cutdown in their social interaction. This can have an adverse effect on their socio-cultural development. Children achieve milestones of various stages at this young age and COVID-19 has absolutely cut their social space.
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It is important for parents to primarily focus on keeping the child engaged to fight with anxiety and help them connect with their peers through digital platforms. On the one hand, where exposure to digital media needs to be restricted, these times have made the digital world a comforting place for all of us. It is our way to communicate with the world outside which means it would mean parents to be adapting to newer methods for the child’s growth.
Parents also need to be careful in their way of introducing or exposing children to the digital world. On the one hand, one can creatively arrange playdates with peers by doing crafts or creating simple recipes together. While on the other hand, learning a new skill will also make the exposure to the digital world a worthwhile experience.
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Children have somewhere lost the sense of structure due to the restrictions in going to school and being with friends and this can cause disruption in their mental wellbeing as the environment in school is supportive and a place of trust for them. At this stage, it becomes important for parents to keep the channel of friends active in the lives of children. They need to be equipped with confidence and explanation of the situation outside in the simplest way possible for them to feel that it’s manageable and this in itself helps children cope better.
Also being active during quarantine is important to maintain a healthy mental balance in children. Hence the activities that are chosen needs to have key takeaways or learning objectives. One can make sure about the children being productive by making them maintain a diary for the learning in the various activities per day. Journaling the learning also makes the children feel a sense of control of the situation and helps them be responsible towards their actions.
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All activities planned need to come from the space of mental stimulation, emotional and social benefits. From virtual events to online play dates with peers to texting to video calling along with social media engagements – all of these are a part of the new normal and also it is primary for the mental well-being of children.
For children, family and friends are a cohesive unit that aids in their development mentally, socially and emotionally. Each stage of life is significant in their growth and development in these three aspects. Connecting with family, relatives, grandparents and friends helps children to maintain connectedness and unity.
It is also a time to connect with children a lot more. Simply being with them and listening to them will help you understand their feelings, thoughts and behaviour better; this is significant as it results in validating their feelings. Feelings are important and it’s not an easy time for any of us hence working as a team in the family can help your child develop better coping mechanisms.
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Communication is the doorway to their life. Hence keep that channel open and let them express the plethora of experiences by them. This helps in controlling the trauma effect of the pandemic as parents can help children process experiences better.
Some common online activities in addition to others mentioned above would be:
Video calling family and friends
Family cooking session and watching recipes online.
Playing online board games with family and friends.
Working out together with the help of online sessions.
All of this is to help children maintain connectedness and be social beings fostering emotional, social and mental growth. These are challenging times for each one of us hence empathy as an emotion becomes a requirement.
(The writer is a counselling psychologist and clinical hypnotherapist)
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