COVID 19-Mental health Innovations
Professional experiences and responses
One of the important outcome of the COVID 19 Pandemic is the large focus on mental health. I can only think of the Tsunami of the 2004 and the earlier 9/11 terror attack of 2001, when a similar focus was made on emotional health of the general population.
The postings of today and tomorrow will focus on the experiences / responses mental health professionals and the general public.
The three writings are by Prof. Vimal Sharma of Manchester, U.K. , Prof.Priti Arun, Chandigarh and Dr. Nagarajiah of Bangalore.
Prof. Sharma reflects on the larger issue of the COVID 19 and identifies 5 responses to cope with the pandemic, namely, connect, be active, take notice, keep learning, and give. Wise and practical steps of emotional health.
Prof.Priti covers the impact of lockdown on children. The article is very special as it brings her rich experiences with children in general and children with a diagnosis of disabilities in particular. The article’s strength is the specific activities that can be taken to improve emotional health of children.
It is a model to follow in all emotional health interventions- not give advice but empower.
Dr.Nagarajiah shares the impact of the lockdown on himself and his immediate community. He also shares his way of maintaining emotional health.
Lockdown and Children- Prof.Priti Arun
We are almost half way through the lockdown; this period has been most stressful for children.
On one hand, they are not required to go to school and parents are also not going out to work. At the same time, they are not able to go out to play and many parents are all the time at home but are busy working from home.
What can be done to make children understand the importance of this restriction?
Young children learn best with observation and visual prompts.
If a story is read out to them in simple language, they are able to correlate very well with the situation and understand the instructions.
To teach them what is social distancing we can use some interesting e books which are available and are very easy to understand even by four year old children.
These books are written in simple language one such example is ‘Dev the dog is worried about Corona virus’.
To teach them hand washing visual schedule is important, it can be drawn and pasted on bathroom wall.
It’s very important to establish a routine where they have regular sleep and exercise routines. Moreover a list of projects for kids can be prepared which can be followed on a daily basis. For physical activities there can be many kinds of activities which can be performed even in a closed house and a real fun. Physical games we can try is to keep a balloon in the air as long as you can. Another fun activity for neurotypical as well as Special children would be a race track. For this we can use a long rope, this can be put on the various furniture and places inside the house in continuity. Like above the sofa, below the table, around the chair and then parent will follow the rope on knees and the child needs to follow the parent by climbing up and down. This becomes fun activity for the children as well as parents.
Another interesting thing is to exercise together or to do yoga together.
We can make a tent for children at home, for this we can use dining chairs, with seats outside. A double bed sheet can be put over the chairs, and some books or cushions can be used to keep the sheet in place. Children can go inside the tent and play with toys, read book or do whatever they like to do.
When we come to Fun activities with children we can make paper planes, paper flowers or paper chain. All parents would like to revisit their childhood by flying paper planes. For all these things we do not need to go to the market to buy any kind of material. Another interesting thing to make is paper snowflakes. Now since all snowflakes are different in pattern, we have to make sure to use our creativity to make different designs.
For the children who are like painting we can do rock painting or we can do leaf painting or vegetable painting. For leaf painting we can pluck the leaves of commonly available plants and trees and use it to make a painting. For vegetable painting, potato can be cut into half and a design can be carved using a knife on it or ladyfinger can be cut and dipped in color to paint. Girls will like to make some pasta jewelry. We can teach children how to make a portrait. We can make posters with children, and we can learn how to draw and paint with our feet.
Another thing that children really enjoy is cooking together. Cooking project can be depending on the age of the child, even two year old child can be involved to stir sugar in Nimbu-Paani.
There can be story telling session with children, we can lie down in the lawn and look at the sky and then looking at the cloud shapes we can make a story about what we see. If we want to sit indoors we can give three words to all those who are playing and ask them to make a story using these words. These words can be from different groups like animal, fruit and household article e.g. dog, noodle and umbrella. One can imagine what funny stories will come out from this combination.
This lock town time can also be used to know about the family tree because in routine parents do not normally get so much of time. We can also use the time to write letters.
Many parents are concerned about games to boost brain power of children. For this games vary depending upon the age of the child. Many games which do not appear to be like a brain game actually is a good exercise for the brain. For 3 to 4 year old child if they are playing with the blocks we are teaching them about the size, shape, color, we are also bringing spatial awareness and imagination.
In an activity like an obstacle course, we are using gross motor, visual perception, motor planning, coordination, problem-solving, critical thinking and language. While doing a pretend play with the child it helps improve the language, social emotional skills, imagination and understanding of the world.
With many online resources available we can also try to learn a new language with our child. Children are normally very good at learning new language and it will be a great fun for them because they will definitely be doing better than the others.
What is the most important ingredient in any of the above listed activities; it is parent’s energy, enthusiasm, zeal and vigor. With that in place any activity can be fun, a great learning opportunity and a life time memory to treasure.
Dr Priti Arun
Professor, Psychiatry, Govt Medical College and Hospital
Joint Director, Govt Rehabilitation Institute for Intellectual DIsabilites
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