Human existence has been confronted with and tested by the unpredictable powers of nature, be it earthquake, floods, draught, or infections. Human race has been facing the evolution of new infections over the past century due to increased global travel, urbanization and exploitation of the natural environment. Infectious outbreaks can cause significant health, economic, social, and political disruption. Infectious diseases potentially affect people of all age groups.
In 2019 world has witnessed the outbreak of deadly virus namely corona virus (COVID-19) which led to the serious consequences of this virus from severe illness, hospitalization and even to significant loss of lives and hence subsequently experiencing a range of negative emotions. COVID-19 has impacted the lives of people around the world including children and adolescents in an unprecedented manner. Many strategies have implicated by the respective governments to curb the spread of infection. Among them most important strategies to reduce the spread of infection were: reducing transmission of infection by regular hand washing, cough and sneeze etiquettes, isolation and social distancing.
The norms of normal living changed drastically and people were and are caught up in an extraordinary emotional confusion. People for last two years have been avoiding going to public places like schools, colleges, markets, etc and public gatherings. This invisible virus has had huge impact on health infrastructure, economy, tourism, trade and of course academics.
COVID-19 pandemic has weighed heavily and created a tremendous amount of stress on children. It is a known fact that children worldwide experienced the separation and death of their loved ones. Even though the children are very resilient and most of them manage to cope well with parents and peers’support, but still mild signs of anxiety like difficulty in sleeping or concentrating are quite common these days.
Covid-19 has affected mental well being of children negatively and led to grief, fear, uncertainty, social isolation, increased screen time, and parental fatigue have negatively affected the mental health of children. Friendships and family support are strong stabilizing forces for children, but the COVID-19 pandemic has also disrupted them.
Children often experience negative emotions like fear, disappointment, sadness, anxiety, anger, loss etc, but the situation has exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictive and widespread nature of this pandemic has further added to the already existing challenges like strained family relation, increased screen time and sedentary lifestyles.
Mental health concerns for children which have aggravated since the start of COVID-19 illness and subsequent lock down are:
• Lack of exercise.
• More screen time.
• Trouble falling asleep.
• Feeding issues.
• Being anxious.
• Not wanting to socialize.
• Fear of going outside.
• Frequent or intense tantrums .
• Bedwetting (in some cases).
• Aggressive behavior.
• Changes in mood that are not usual for your child.
• Loss of interest in in school work.
• Problems with memory.
• Lack of concentration.
• Lack of basic personal hygiene.
Although most of these symptoms are self limiting and can be overcome by positive coping and support of parents, family members and friends, some of these symptoms may persist and may need to be addressed by a professional help by a counsellor, clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist.
? Reassure children that this is a temporary phase and that it is a beautiful way to spend quality time with their parents and family members.
? Give time to your children. Give them the attention that they need.
? Reassure children about their safety and the safety of loved ones, and tell them that it is adults’ job to ensure their safety.
? Focus should be on the ‘good behaviour’ more than ‘bad behaviour’ of a child.
? Engage them in play, reading, and in physical activity.
? Keep them in contact with their friends and help them to get connected to their friends, and loved ones by calling them up or through video calls.
? Teach them in organizing their room and contributing to managing daily chores like laundry, cleaning and cooking.
? Excessive internet use should be avoided.
? Help them in learning creative pursuits like art, music and dance.
? Help children to communicate about their feelings and common problems they face.
? It is advised to parents to take care of their own mental health needs and try to cope with stress adaptively.
? Monitor media consumption. Kids are always listening, so limit the amount of exposure you give them to news coverage about COVID-19.
? Be a role model. If you are calm and confident about the situation, your child is likely to be too.
? Teachers can aware students about COVID-19 and preventive measures.
? Teachers can make online classes more interactive, engaging students in the form of quizzes, puzzles and small competitions.
? Teachers can teach simple exercises to students.
? Parents should be aware about the developmental needs of the children.
? Self-care during these times is not selfish because it enables the caregivers to be there for their children as a stable, calm and soothing parent.
? It is important that adults manage their own emotions well and remain calm, listen to children’s concerns, speak kindly and reassure them.
? A balanced diet, regular physical activity, and a good lifestyle can help prevent obesity in children.
In these desperate times and with the surge in stress and anxiety in everyone’s lives, it has become really difficult for the parents to calm their children. The occupational and personal challenges faced by a parent interfere with their ability to be available for their children, both emotionally and physically, most of the times, and hence, they are not always able to address the needs and worries of their children. The children are constantly preoccupied with queries regarding when the school will reopen, when it would be safe for them to go out and play, when they would be at the liberty of visiting their favourite places without any fear.
Children have always been the worst sufferers in any pandemic, directly or indirectly. The need of the hour is to prioritize children centric services, ensuring their access to basic necessities and facilities, like nutrition, education, health care etc. The support from family and peers is priceless in these times. Children reinvent our world for us, so what we give them today is of immense importance.