Covid 19 pandemic will be having both short and long term implications on our society and on our mental health. The outbreak creates fertile ground for mental health issues. As the pandemic continues everyone is facing multiple stressors including physical and psychological risks due to economic deprivation, family seclusion and various health issues.
Among all children are particularly vulnerable to these risk factors. During times of stress and crisis, it is common for children to seek more attachment and be more demanding on parents. Children usually look to their parents for their queries and parents may give information which may not be completely factual. Children’s are very imaginative, they can become easily frightened when they hear conversations about virus and it can lead to long term effects on Childs psyche.
Many children will be affected in abusive environments during this quarantine period. Quarantine measures such as school closure and restrictions on movement disrupt children’s routine and social support. Children with mental disorders may find information on television can add to their stress.
As adults we usually overlook the emotional needs of children and their own frustrations with lockdown of schools and other restrictions measures .It is very important to understand that their feelings are heard just like adults and provide them with emotional support.. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in children.
Children and young teenagers react differently to stressors and it can vary according their age, their cognition, their past experiences and how they deal with stress. In addition children with prior history of trauma or pre pre-existing mental, physical or developmental problems and those already suffering from mental health issues and substance abuse respond strongly to stress. Irritability and acting out behaviour in teen is quite common.
Some children present with change in sleep and eating patterns. Negative reactions may include worrying thoughts about their health or that of family and friends, fear, avoidance or physical symptoms such as stomach ache. Children need to be reassured and given information with clear conversations.
I’m sharing a few tips for parents to avoid boredom at home
Misinformation and concern over COVID-19 can make us all anxious and may also lead discrimination and stigma against people or places. Children’s queries about the situation and conditions happening outside should be explained in a simple way so that the child can clearly understand and be prepared for the stress.
- Parents should teach crafts,games and art and that will help in over cognitive development of child
- Prepare and organise family activities – praying together, exercising together
- Try to involve them when the adults are doing household work and give them tasks
- Parents should spend quality time by sharing childhood memories with them
- Children should not be restricted and should let them experiment and try to support them
- They should be explained all the safety measures and how to take care in the current situation
- Try to maintain existing bedtimes routine as sleep is important for Mental and physical health
- Try to keep them healthy and maintain good life style. It may be tempting to give them treats chocolate, to compensate for being housebound, but this is not good for their health, children usually keep keen watch on their parents and watch emotional reactions and take cue from it So try to stay calm and rational in your behaviour
Promote fun activities and don’t insist on academic learning all times. Their mental health is more important than their academic grades.
Make your home a loving and peaceful place to your family and children to flourish their unique and individual strengths.
However, it is essential that people recognize the awareness, safety and risks. Early detection and treatment can alleviate sufferings of patients.
In addition children should feel safe during Covid-19 pandemic, it is utmost important to care for their emotional and mental health too.
Delivering right information and prioritising message with children about COVID-19 is an essential component of any universal, community-led response to the pandemic.
Authorworks as consultant Neuropsychiatristin JLNM Hospital, Srinagar