The COVID 19 pandemic has taken its toll on us and while majority of its effect has been in the physical health area, the drastic changes it has brought with it mean that mental health has also not remained untouched by it. During major disruptions like the pandemic, humans are put through various adversities and have to adapt a lot to the prevalent scenario to survive. When it came to the COVID 19 pandemic, we had to adapt to new rules of social distancing and isolation to limit the virus. While the society is slowly evolving to see family as more nuclear units, the level of social isolation during the pandemic was never seen before and had long term effects on the people. Coupled with a period of financial and social instability, social distancing increased feelings of loneliness, desertion and depression. During the pandemic, mental health wellness touched a new low as people struggled to interact and share things with others. The period was mentally challenging for everyone, especially the adults who had to deal with all the adverse effects of the pandemic to survive this year. While it is true that the adults had to bear the brunt of the pandemic the most, one cannot ignore the effect it had on the children. As young people, children are more vulnerable to the virus and that puts them in a risky position during the pandemic. Apart from the risk of COVID 19, adapting to wearing a mask at all times, practicing stricter hygiene rules and social distancing also took a toll on the children’s mental health. The uncertainty linked with pandemic was evident in the education sector as schools remain shut down due to the risk attached to traditional learning. With new adaptations to cope up to, doubts hanging over education and dealing with different uncertainties, children also suffered disturbances that led to mental health issues.
Childhood years are the most active years of a child and it is important that a child is physically active and playful to ensure his proper development. Playing with their peer group ensures that their overall development is occurring at a healthy pace. But, the pandemic situation forced kids to be locked inside houses without friends and playmates which pose hurdles to the overall development of a child.
Through traditional method of community learning, where many children studied together in a classroom, schools established a healthy way of learning. These methods were enhanced by peer-to-peer learning and experiential learning. With schools shut during the pandemic and traditional learning discouraged, the kids had to witness a lot of changes that were hard for them to adapt to. These drastic changes could lead to the development of negative mental tendencies like difficulty in learning, mood swings, outbursts among others. Friends and peers are an important part of a students’ life and limited interaction with them can lead to the start of a depression that is seldom observed in children.
The pandemic is especially hard for kids from dispersed households and disturbed families. The pandemic not only exposes kids to isolation but also to issues like domestic disturbances, domestic violence and conflicts which affects their mental health negatively. Many kids use school as an escape to run away from the problems that plague their homes and in the absence of an alternative, kids stuck in abusive homes cannot properly conserve their mental health.
During times like these where the kids cannot rely on their friends and teachers to ensure a state of mental wellbeing, parents and guardians need to pay greater attention to the kids and ensure that they do not feel neglected or threatened. `It is important that the kids are counselled and led gently through the various changes that the pandemic has brought in. While we neglect mental health issues, it is important to address them in a kid because if left unaddressed, the issues can blow out of proportion and have an even greater adverse effect on their life later.
As parents and guardians, we need to understand that kids learn by example and are most affected by our actions and reactions. To provide a child with a peaceful and safe environment, we have to rest our anxieties and take a calm approach to them. During such times, they will be looking for reassurance that everything will be alright and we cannot be sources of reassurance if we ourselves are not calm and assured. It is therefore important that we deal with our own anxieties in a way that it is not reflected to our kids and they live in an undisturbed environment. Instead of passive aggressively showing how we feel, if we are real about our struggles with our kids and tell them that even though the pandemic is not an ideal situation, everything will be okay soon; it will help boost their mental health.
As parents, we need to understand the need of self care and develop coping strategy with stress. Once we understand and implement them, we can help our kids understand the need of having positive coping strategy because as they grow up, they will not face easier times but they can build a stronger mentality to cope with the stresses of life. Self care is important and striking a balance between family time and me time is also important. Shower your kid with a little family love every day to make him feel safe and loved. In the same line, let him be on his own at times so that he becomes independent and individualistic and understands the power of solitude. Instead of anger and dissatisfaction, practice good coping strategies like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, music and art with him. Anything can be a coping strategy but the bottom line of it is that it should be healthy and positive.
Try to be warm and accepting so that kids develop strong familial relationships and can look at family as a safe haven.
As a school, SAI International School, SAI International Residential School, and SAI Angan put equal emphasis on the mental development of a child, which is especially necessary during adverse situations like the pandemic.