COVID-19: How to tackle the long-term impact on the mental health of children

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Updated: May 18, 2021 1:01 PM

As the number of cases in our country spiral up, we once again find ourselves cocooned at home, worried about the well-being of ourselves and others around us. In the current scenario, it has become increasingly important to continue efforts to minimize the impact of the pandemic on children’s physical, emotional and social development.

covid impact on childrenThe most common symptoms of the infection seen in children are fever, cough, nausea/vomiting or diarrhoea.

By Aachal Jain, 

As the number of cases in our country spiral up, we once again find ourselves cocooned at home, worried about the well-being of ourselves and others around us. In the current scenario, it has become increasingly important to continue efforts to minimize the impact of the pandemic on children’s physical, emotional and social development.

Taking the above in mind, I have outlined below a few ways parents can create a RAINBOW amid the COVID-19 Storm.

R – Reassure, Regulate and Routine

Firstly, it is important to reassure children that safety of themselves and others around them will be taken care of. Secondly, one needs to take effort to engage in practices that help to self-regulate. For example, do some journaling, yoga, deep breathing, mindfulness or meditative activities etc. Thirdly, it is important to build a routine and structure their time at home. Building a routine aids resilience in children by offering them predictability and a sense of safety that can help them stay active and sane.

A – Accept feelings

The ongoing pandemic caused due to COVID-19 definitely has an impact on children and it is natural for them to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry. Distress and concern about their own health as well as the health of loved ones can be quite overwhelming and lead to strong emotions being developed. It is important that you take time to listen to their thoughts, feelings and respond by re-assuring your child that this too shall pass.

It is important to remember that you are validating these feelings, not their behavior. You can validate whether your child is unhappy, angry, grumpy or fearful without validating that they hit their sibling or behave irrationally.

I – Increase self – efficacy

Self-efficacy is the certainty that you are able to perform a task or manage a certain situation. In other words, it involves creating a sense of independence in children, which reinforces the thoughts that they are capable of achieving their goals.

N – Nutrition

Feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression can trigger poor eating habits and food choices. However, with a little thought and planning, focus on creating balanced meals, which will in turn boost mood and immunity.

B- Build connection

Healthy emotional development of children is built on a network of relationships they create. Hence, it is imperative to encourage children to spend more time building deeper connections with family members and friends. The main objective is to create meaningful connections with loved ones that can help in maintaining mental and emotional health while reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, which can make us feel better physically as well.

O – Optimism, Hope and Positivity

Children feel safe and secure about their future when we are able to create hope and optimism in them. Building an attitude of gratitude as a family, spending time counting your blessings will further enhance this.

W – Withdraw from social media

The quarantine has increased the time spent in front of screens for many reasons and purposes – school work, entertainment and social interaction. Screens have become a tool for coping with distress, boredom, and lack of social interaction caused by the pandemic, but its negative impact cannot be ignored. The increased exposure to fake news and information overload about COVID causes anxiety, depression and panic.

It is also important for younger children to get their information only from you, as you are their resource and will provide information, which is age-appropriate and accurate.

The pandemic has given us an opportunity to embrace a flexible and open mind set. The constant changes do not allow us to plan for the future, and therefore, it has allowed us to ‘do the best that we can right now’.

As a parent, commit to providing support and unconditional love to help your children navigate smoothly through these challenging times. Reach out for professional help for yourself and your child to share your challenges and get the support that you need.

The columnist is Pastoral Care Coordinator at Aditya Birla World Academy. Views expressed are the author’s own.

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