Its 6.30 am in the morning, you're trying to wake up your child for school, lest they will be running late for the 100th time again. You're hurrying to leave for your office and all-in-all you have a general idea how your day is gonna look like. But one day, things changed. A new virus called the Corona virus started spreading and before we know it, it's termed a pandemic. Our lives have altered to say the least. While there has been immense debate on how the COVID-19 has altered our world and heralded a new normal, we forget about the silent observers of the whole phenomenon, who might be more impacted than we expected.
Children have developing cognitive faculties, meaning they may not be able to make sense of things just as clearly and rationally as adults can but they are quick to grasp the meaning. They may not have really understood the underlying mechanisms of the viral infection or how it is crippling the economy and impacting thousands. However, they understood that there life has changed as well.
Coming to terms with death and mortality
The second wave of COVID-19 was the deadliest one experienced in India. Families lost and grief abound, it was a difficult period for most of the people. Children however, were probably impacted in a little different way. They were introduced to grief, bereavement and the concept of death earlier than intended. Many lost one or both of their parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. and have to deal with grief and bereavement at such a tender age. The mortality suddenly seems real and attachment to other members of the family can take a hit. New family dynamics can be hard to navigate as well.
Ambiguity about future course of action academically
Students were preparing for their board examinations, college entrances, moving to different countries and suddenly everything was stagnant. There are international guidelines, additional requirements, financial constraints, possibility of gap years, and just a purgatory of waiting. This ambiguity has impacted thousands of students as they wait for things to make a little more sense so that they can start planning their academic years.
Ambiguity about school functioning
Children in school are not sure when the schools will be functioning, how the classes will be now, will they get their sports period, how the exams will be and just how their new normal will look like. As children, their world revolves around their families, neighborhood friends and the school. School being the principal place they have always spent their time at apart from home, it's only natural for them to be worried about how their lives will now be.
Inability to focus much or learn from online classes; interactional and experiential learning
Teaching and learning in a classroom is not just about the teacher reading from a book or writing on a board and students passively listening to him/her. Teaching and learning are processes that aid cognitive and intellectual growth via interaction and experience. The written/spoken words alone cannot impact a child as much as being in the atmosphere of learning or looking at how others learn. Its similar to how you and I can learn driving by watching videos on YouTube but won't really be learning it until we enroll in a driving school, sitting in the car with the instructor. Its the experience of learning that the children are missing.
Online classes are of course a medium that is being made use of as effectively as possible and we know how much effort the teachers are really putting into these classes so that the children do not miss out on their education. But the medium itself, without the physical interaction and experience, not feasible enough to retain the attention of young and curious minds.
Losing out on peer interaction and co curriculars
Peer interaction is one of the most important things a child needs for healthy growth. It stimulates social learning and establishes a frame of reference for them to base their interactions upon. They see each other and want to engage in healthy competition, learn from each other, clarify their doubts and share their concerns. The social support from peers can work as a safety net for a lot of children.
Anxiety about performance, future of the world as we know
A lot of parents have reported their children to be distressed regarding their performance in school being impacted by this new normal. These sincere and hard working children have worked incredibly these past year for their goals and challenged themselves to be a better version of themselves. With the ambiguity running high, things seem to be crumbling as the future doesn't look anymore like they had imagined.
Another group of children is worried about the world in general, about how it is impacting life. They are worried about all the politics involved, the economic future and the work climate of the world. They have started feeling a burden and an underlying hopelessness at times.
Pressure on parents to engage children at home
Since the beginning of the pandemic, now that everyone is confined at home and movement is limited, the worlds of stressed adults and bored children have been clashing more often. Since they cannot step outside of the house much and engage socially with their peers or involve themselves in a sports activity, children either look towards their parents for engagement and stimulation or immerse themselves in video games of all kinds.
This has actually resulted in increased incidences of gaming addictions and rather unpleasant exchange between parents and the children more often.
Social skills, interacting in group setting, unfamiliar crowds
Schools, tuition centres, extra curricular activities, etc being the principal sources of social interaction and learning, play a very critical role in any child's growth as an individual. They learn how to interact with a group of friends, how to navigate through the group dynamics, how to make new friends, how to choose between peers, how to ask questions, or study better or engage in healthy competition. Disruption in these can halt this progress and create issues in the social skills of the child.
The lifelong impact of these situations can lead to faulty attachment styles, death anxiety, anxiety, disorders, depression, and other issues, if not handled with care.
Children and students alike, have been impacted heavily by the pandemic in various areas of their lives. We can help them navigate through this difficult time if only we can understand them and provide them with love, care and tools to deal with these things.