How to help children cope with COVID-19 stress


The second wave of the coronavirus infection has left people discouraged and anxious. In many parts of the country, there is a lockdown, and many other places are witnessing families imposing a self-lockdown, so as to stay safe, and keep all members healthy.

In all of this, it is the children who are getting affected once again, having to understand why staying at home is more important now than ever. And while parents are looking for ways to safeguard their kids, it is also important that they help them cope with their pandemic stress.

“Children usually thrive under predictable conditions. Disruption led by the pandemic has greatly impacted them physically and emotionally. Online schooling, isolation, quarantine at home, lack of social interactions, lack of physical sports and parental angst have developed fears, depression, and boredom among children. While most parents were involved in dealing with the uncertainty and putting all efforts to keep family safe and sustainable, the emotional needs of children were somehow ignored,” said Dr Jesal Sheth, senior consultant paediatrician, Fortis Hospital, Mulund.

How has the pandemic impacted children?

The doctor mentioned the pandemic has changed the way children “typically grow, learn, play, behave, interact, and manage emotions”. They have been “observed to have conduct problems, peer problems, externalising problems, and general psychological distress”. When compared with children who did not exercise, children with psychical activity had “lower hyperactivity-inattention and less prosocial behaviour problems”.

Besides this, from an emotional perspective, they have a lot going around in their head, the doctor said, adding the “biggest worry for them is whether or not they will see their friends in school or will they get sick”.

“The joint effect between lifestyle changes and psychosocial stress caused by home confinement [has] perhaps aggravated behavioural problems in children,” said Dr Sheth, adding that “in the long run, this can lead to an emotional breakdown”, leading to these children “resisting to return to school post-lockdown”.

How can this be tackled?

1. Addressing fears: Anxiety and emotional depression can be tackled by parents to some extent by addressing fears of children, talking about problems and possible solutions from the child’s perspective.

pandemic stress, COVID-19 pandemic and stress, helping children coping with stress in pandemic, children and mental health, emotional stress, indian express news Parents can educate kids about following hygiene habits and social distancing. (Photo: Pixabay)

2. Spending time with grandparents: Children who have grandparents can decide to spend some quality time with them.

3. Create a routine: Parents can maintain a routine even if confined at home. They can plan activities with kids. They should involve them in various home activities, educate them about following hygiene habits and social distancing.

4. Play games: Engage in indoor play and creative activities. In addition to these activities, children can be advised to be involved in household chores.

5. Virtual playdates: To keep them in touch with friends and classmates, plan a virtual party and playdates.

6. Bad behaviours can be redirected and discussed: Parents should pay more attention to the emotional wellbeing of the child. Keep emphasising COVID-19 measures like wearing a mask, social distancing, and frequent hand washing, as the pandemic is not over yet. Also, children should be encouraged to socialise with their friends and classmates through digital forums under parents’ supervision.

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