Schools have been closed for a week now and it will continue for a pretty long haul. As a result, children are home, their schedules have been disrupted, they aren’t meeting their friends in schools, unable to go down to play with their friends, leading to a bottling up of a situation. Parents, alongside, are too stressed about their jobs, businesses, groceries, the anxiety of keeping their family safe from the virus and yet managing to make it through the day with all the cooking and the cleaning by themselves. With the anxious information going around in the social media, news channels, leading to anxious conversations in our homes as well. Parents have been seen addressing the flare-ups between the teens and them; the kids want to invest their pent-up energies but in vain to do so, resulting in the homes going haywire. How can we deal with this situation actually? Does the lockdown or the prolonged period of being cooped-up inside the house have an impact on our child’s mental wellbeing? How do we talk to our children about these matters?
Well, to be fair, this is an unprecedented situation around the world; never seen before in the modern history at least. So there haven’t been any long term studies on the impact of this such lockdowns. Most of the studies that had been conducted were in places of conflicts or places which were politically unstable and that can’t really be mirrored to what our children will go through right now. But there is apparently a silver lining, if we want to find one. The rest of the world have been in lockdown for several weeks prior to India i.e., in the East, UK, America and in parts of Europe. So there are psychologists who are already helping parents with what is going on. We do know that human beings are effectively social creatures and so, while it’s nice to have our parents around, people of all ages benefit greatly interacting with people going through the same wreckage as we’re, we bond over shared experiences, which becomes a root to being happy. Not being able to talk to people of our own age, does lead to loneliness, then leads to stress. And stressed out children will add stress to their families currently cooped up with as well. Depending on how long this lockdown continues, parents will necessarily have to keep an eye on the behavioural changes in children. Dr. Sharnell Myles, Child Trauma Specialist in US describes this as CABIN FEVER. This fever is how the West describes the feeling of being caged inside the house while it snows endlessly during their winters. And in-order to help the children through that Cabin Fever, she recommends maintaining a daily schedule, some kind of predictable routine that children can be a part of so that they have pockets of their day to live cheerfully. Some amount of school work, board games and fun, some amount of talking to their family through the usage of technology. She too recommends giving the children responsibility, such as, putting them in charge of the handwashing for the entire family, give them a sense of purpose to protect their family from the virus and the sense of achievements at the end.
The next question is, Whether or not the kids should be spending time on the screens! Well, in the normal circumstances the doctor recommend that they shouldn’t have maximum screen time, but, it’s important here to understand the difference between social distancing and social isolation. So, it’s not necessary that our children who are currently practising social distancing are also socially isolated. In the West, they recommend kids to be given enough time on social media to be able to interact with their friends. Prof. Samantha Cartwright-Hatton, Clinical Child Psychologist, University of Sussex, told the BBC to keep classmates the members of clubs in touch via, Skype or Face-time to allow them to share details of their day to compare notes of what’s going on, alongside limiting the time of their usage, ofcourse.
Another one is, How do we deal with unwanted social media rubbish that’s going on? Dr. Jamie Howard, Director of the Child Mind Institute, New York, recommends parents to become fact-checkers. Try to know what knowledge does they have, where does it come from (the source), then become the person who answers that to the best of your ability. Make it a point to make them reach you for each queries whether the news they hear or read is authentic or fake. Keep an open conversation that is continuous and unending.
Moreover, How and What information to share with kinds about the Virus? Dr. Gene Beresin, Massachusetts Hospital, Centre for Young Healthy Minds says, the children normally urge to know three things in this situation, firstly, if they’re safe. Now the parents have to make sure if they’re doing enough to mitigate the problems and keep them safe and this will give them a sense of comfort. Secondly, put the children in-charge of things. It gives them the sense of being closer to adulthood and make them more responsible. Thirdly, as we share the information, we should share the solutions of it too. Anxiety travels faster than the Coronavirus. Don’t pretend, share your worries, if you’re worried with its solutions after. Kids get anxious when they find something secretive going on around or being hidden away from them. Kids already have bigger problems with having the parents around, monitoring them all day and night, so the parents need to first make them comfortable about having them around and the rest will fall in place eventually.