Experts warn that kids, especially those in the 3-10 year age group, maybe the most affected with the lockdown
It’s not just education of children, which has suffered during the lockdown to curb the Covid-19. Boredom, social isolation and the lack of outdoor games has added to serious healthcare concerns.
In other words, the situation, in which kids are compelled to cut off from the rest of the world and cocoon themselves in their own spaces, can lead to a higher number of mental health conditions in children, such as anxiety and depression.
Parents need to prepare their young ones about adapting to the ‘new normal’ after the lockdown. That includes lessons on wearing masks and gloves while maintaining social distance and playing with their friends a little differently from earlier, keeping in mind new rules of caution.
To begin with, Dr Charan Teja Koganti, psychiatrist, cautions parents against scaring their kids into using masks and gloves when they step out. “It is important to wear masks and gloves now, but parents should reassure their kids that this is not the end of the world.
As kids have very a curious mind, it would be best to explain to them that these are just precautionary measures,” states Dr Charan.
Latha Shankar, Principal, P Obul Reddy Public School, also agrees that all hands, including parents and teachers, should be on deck to help children lead a normal life.
“Toddlers and young kids are very enthusiastic and have a curious bend of mind, and they definitely miss being around their friends and teacher on a physical plane,” Principal Latha explains.
“In physical classrooms, kids are usually jumping around to give answers first, but in a virtual classroom, they don’t see a scope for that. That is also why we have counsellors helping us help our kids to adapt to the situation and not get stressed.”
Home alone and under parental watch
Psychologist Harpreet Kandhari shares an interesting perspective. “Children are still developing when they are in the three-to-ten-year age group. During that time, spending time with parents is the best thing. They feel wanted and the warmth of their bond will maintain the positivity even during such a time of crisis,” points out Harpreet.
“Psychological problems start when the warmth is missing. So if the parents can look into that, then the kids will lead a happy life no matter what restrictions are put into their lives.”
While psychiatrist Dr Charan agrees that kids build their social skills and develop their personality when they are under ten years of age, he cautions that the situation calls for parents to take on additional duties.
“The first one month would have been great with all family bonding, but now when even they are busy with their individual work-from-home commitments, they need to find a way to keep their kids engaged. Staying at home all the while, not going out and meeting friends and teachers will take a toll on the kids,” he states.
“And though the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended screen time for kids should not exceed two hours a day, it is difficult to achieve that now, given their dependence on online classes as well as entertainment, which are both solely gadget-based. So also, parents must pay extra attention during this time.”
Yet, in the circumstances, Dr Charan’s advice would seem easier said than done, especially as Namitha points out the situation in her home with her daughter who’s studying in Class 2.
“Managing work commitments and adjusting to my daughter’s online class schedules has become a massive task altogether. Attending to our daughter’s needs alone has become a full-time job. Coupled with our own work commitments, the scene just gets increasingly stressful,” laments Namitha.
Then explaining her point, she says, “For instance, we have to find gadgets that not only suit the purpose but also be handy to help reduce the digital gap when she is attending her online class. Then, after her lessons, as she can’t go out and play with her friends, we have to keep her engaged so that she doesn’t get bored and cranky, which is an added responsibility because earlier, when she attended school, at least we knew she was learning and enjoying, but now she is not doing either.Neither is she focused fully on her online, class nor does she enjoy sitting at home watching her cartoons without friends. We are seriously hoping this lockdown situation and the virus threat get over soon, so that she can get back to her earlier less complicated life.”