What seemed like an extended summer vacation initially, slowly paved away for frustration and anxiety as play and social interaction- a natural stress buster for children, was cut from their lives.
By Seema Lal
We all know parenting is a 24/7 job, but most of us did manage to shift that responsibility for at least a few hours to someone else like grandparents, nannies, daycares or schools. Come Covid 19, the entire responsibility shifted to the parents, with children home all day. What seemed like an extended summer vacation initially, slowly paved away for frustration and anxiety as play and social interaction- a natural stress buster for children, was cut from their lives. In our attempt to keep them engaged, education and entertainment shifted online most children spent way too much time in front of screens.
It is true that we cannot compete with technology in terms of the amount of access to information that our children get; but technology too cannot compete with us on the extent of social and emotional support we can give our children. There is extensive research and ample knowledge about how screens based technology can affect a child’s psychological wellbeing. It is not enough if parents attempt to only strike a balance between the time children spent on screens and that with family. There now has to be a deliberate and conscious effort to combat the adverse effect that both the pandemic isolation and the online compensation on our children.
Parents perturbed with complaints of boredom from children, fall easy prey to rash marketing of learning apps, games, coding and even entrepreneurial skill development programs with unscientific and unethical claims of fostering child development. Parents need to be convinced that boredom is healthy and children are creative enough to find their own means of play wherever they are with whatever they have. All we need is to ensure safety. Social-emotional learning has to be prioritized now more than ever before at every home.
A few decisive daily D’s that can be followed in every home and every family are:
An effort to have Dialogues and Discussions with children daily; An attempt to Dine together for at least one meal without Distraction from Devices; A time and space to share Delight; and finally some Divine silence to connect with the power within, above and beyond.
All these can go a long way in laying a foundation for a healthy future that our children deserve.
The columnist is a Kochi-based Mental Health Consultant and Researcher, Co-Founder of Together We Can, an advocacy group addressing issues related to Mental Health, Disability, Education, Child-Parent empowerment. Views expressed are the columnist’s own.